A gutsy display from Thailand was not enough to stop Slovakia from a 3-2 victory in the King’s Cup final at Rajamangala Stadium on Sunday night.

Thailand’s bid to win the King’s Cup for a 16th time was thwarted by Slovakia who managed a 3-2 win to claim the coveted trophy on Sunday night. Both teams took their place in the final after winning their respective games against Gabon (Thailand 4-2 on penalties) and the United Arab Emirates (Slovakia won 2-1). With the partisan crowd at Rajamangala Stadium rooting for the War Elephants to make it three consecutive titles, the players marched in to thousands of blue shirts waving in the stands. It did not take long for the cheers to quieten down as Slovakia started the game on the front foot and went in search of the first goal.

Their first chance came in the fourth minute when Adam Nemec found space in the box only to send his looping header over the bar. Just six minutes later, Martin Skrtel’s team took the lead through Ondrej Duda. Robert Mak turned on the afterburners and ghosted past Philip Roller before cutting back a pinpoint ball for Duda to smash home. Thailand had a couple of half chances that fell the way of Chiangrai United’s Thitipan Puangchan but the midfielder failed to find the crucial equaliser. There was a deafening silence around the stadium in the 27th minute when Skrtel seemed to lose consciousness after Chanathip Songkrasin caught him in the face with a cross-ball although the former Liverpool defender recovered within minutes to return to the pitch.

It was Mak who proved to be the difference again when he went from provider of the first goal to goalscorer in the 34th minute. The diminutive winger ghosted in behind the defense and got ahead of Pansa Hemviboon to slot the ball past goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan to make it 2-0. Thailand refused to give up and were rewarded for their never-say-die attitude with a little help from Slovakian goalkeeper Michal Sulia. Following a throw-in back to him, Sulia smashed his clearance straight at an alert Teerasil Dangda who rolled the ball to Jakkaphan Kaewprom who poked it into an empty net to make it 2-1.

Game on for the second period as the War elephants made a change and brought on Port FC’s Bodin Phala for Mongkol Tossakrai. Bodin wasted little time in making his presence felt as he went for a long-range effort on 48 minutes that sailed into the crowd. The Thais were on the up as they began pressing higher up the pitch and it was Chanathip Songkrasin who tested Sulia in goal next but his effort was put out for a corner. Shots were raining in from all directions but Sulia held firm to deny the hosts an equaliser as Slovakia lost their way and sat deeper and deeper as the match went on.

The visitors brought on Celta Vigo’s Stanislav Lobotka in place of Erik Sabo with 30 minutes left to play and the move almost paid off immediately as Mak slotted the ball past Kawin only to be pulled up for offside. That move punctured Thailand’s enthusiasm and it wasn’t long before Slovakia regained their two-goal advantage on 68 minutes. A quick break into the Thai half saw Duda lay the ball off for an onrushing Erik Pacinda and the forward dispatched a sweet curler into the top left corner to make it three goals on the night for Slovakia. Thailand came back with a second goal in the 79th minute when a well-worked free kick saw Pansa slot home the ball to set up a grandstand finish for the Rajamangala crowd. Alas it was not meant to be despite a valiant effort from the home side but coach Milovan Rajevac would have seen enough positives to continue his preparations for the AFF Suzuki Cup and 2019 Asian Cup.

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