The preparations of the Thailand Under-21 side for their 2017 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games title defence are well on track after overcoming their gutsy Malaysian counterparts 2-1 to pick up the inaugural Nations Cup in Malacca on Sunday night.
The Thais are the defending SEA Games champions, having won the 2015 football gold medal in Singapore.
Thailand captain Chenrop Samphaodi's goal 11 minutes from time proved to be enough to settle the final of the friendly quadrangular at the Hang Jebat Stadium after Malaysia's Nur Syamie Iszuan Amin had cancelled out Worawut Namwech's early opener.
The hosts got off to the worst possible start by conceding within three minutes of kickoff. Chenrop's header from Suradet Klankham's free kick came back off the post before Worawut gleefully ramped home the rebound from two yards out.
Thailand could have doubled their advantage on 11 minutes when Tanasit Siripala went through on goal, but Malaysia goalkeeper Amierul Hakim Awang did well to close down the angle.
Frank Bernhardt's side gradually settled in after the nervy start and managed to grab a shock equaliser in the 35th minute. Safawi Rasid's superb diagonal ball spilt the whole Thai defence to pick out Nur Syamie. He strode onto the leather like a flash before finishing with aplomb past opposite custodian Apirak Worawong.
The first half ended all square but Thailand were dominant in all areas after the restart. The junior War Elephants created chance after chance, but struggled to put them away.
First, Nattawut Sombayotha shot over with just the keeper to beat, then Chenrop failed to put his shot on target after Amierul had spilled Nattuwut's drive.
The opportunities kept coming, with Worawut just failing to connect with Suradet's teasing free kick into the box, while Chenrop saw his shot hacked off the line by Malaysia centre-back Adib Zainuddin.
Just when it looked like it may go down to penalties to settle the contest, Worrawoot Srimaka's side finally made their dominance count in the 79th minute. A superb lofted ball by Thanasit picked out substitute Montree Promsawat. He squared it unselfishly across the six-yard box for Chenrop to fire past a stranded Ameirul for the match winner.
The goal scorer was eventually sent off for a second bookable offence after some time-wasting on the stroke of full time, but that did not stop the Thais from emerging champions of the Nations Cup.
Thailand U21: Apirak Worawong (GK), Suriya Singmui, Worawut Namvech, Shinnapat Leeaoh, Santipap Channgom (Janepob Phokhi 43'), Nattawut Sombatyotha, Chaowat Veerachart, Tanasit Siripala, Suradet Klankham, Chaiyawat Buran (Montree Promsawat 62'), Chenrop Samphaodi (C)
Malaysia U21: Amierul Hakim Awang (GK), Ariff Farhan, Faris Shah (C), Adib Zainuddin, Irfan Zakaria (Zuasyraf Zulkiefle 64'), Ahmad Khairil Anuar Ahmad Zamri, Nur Syamie Iszuan Amin (Syafiq Ahmad 83'), Safawi Rashid, Arif Anwar (Faisal Halim 67'), Syazwan Andik, Jafri Md Firdaus Chew