Thailand marched impressively into the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup after hammering Malaysia at the Surakul Stadium in Phuket today to finish their Group B programme with a perfect record.
Sutee Suksomkit lashed home the opening goal midway through the first half and Teerasil Dangda added a brace after the break as the three-time champions picked up their third consecutive win to top their pool, setting up a clash in the last four against Indonesia.
Malaysia suffered their second consecutive loss, leaving Vietnam only needing a draw from their match against group minnows Laos later tonight to progress to the semi-finals.
Malaysia needed to win to keep alive any realistic hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals and offered the first threat on goal in the fourth minute when an Indra Putra Mahayuddin free-kick took a bad bounce that nearly snuck past goalkeeper Kittisak Rawangpa at the near post.
But the Thais dominated, nearly taking the lead after 13 minutes when Sutee's corner from the right was met by Teerasil, who glanced his diving header narrowly wide.
Syed Adney Syed Hussein was brought in to replace Helmi Eliza Elias in goal after the first-choice keeper's calamitous errors in the 3-2 loss to Vietnam on Monday but the replacement was very nearly embarrassed in the 18th minute by a long-range effort by Datsakorn Thonglao.
The Thai skipper spotted Adney off his line and launched a shot from 45 yards that flew over the goalkeeper's head and came back off the underside of the crossbar.
Suchao Nutnum looked to have a simple tap-in from the rebound but Adney recovered well to block his follow-up.
The Thais opened the scoring five minutes later as Suree Sukha's cross from the right found an unmarked Sutee on the other side of the box.
Muhammad Juzaili Samion came across in an attempt to block the winger's shot but only succeeded in screening Adney, who parried Sutee's fierce drive into the net.
Thailand increase their lead just 30 seconds after the restart when a defence-splitting pass by Datsakorn released Teerasil, who eluded the challenge of Adney on the edge of the box before firing into the unguarded net.
Tempers boiled over after a foul by Chonlatit Jantakam on Mohamad Zaquan Adha in the 55th minute with Indra Putra slyly punching Teerathep Winothai on the back of the head in the ensuing melee - an offence that went unnoticed and unpunished.
Mohamad Zaquan Adha had Malaysia's best chance in the 73rd minute after being put in the clear by Amirul Hadi Zainal's flick on but he lashed his attempt wastefully wide.
Teerasil wrapped up the match three minutes later, striding clear after being released by Ronnachai's through ball on the halfway line before sliding the ball past a helpless Adney.