It is the end of the road for the Malayan Tigers tonight in Bangkok after their 2-0 defeat against the Thais saw them lost the tie 3-1 on aggregate.
Fingers will be pointing at the Korean referee, Lee Min Hu's poor performance as the reason why the Malaysians lost their regional title. However, I would like to differ from the majority and blame it on the Malaysian Head Coach, Rajagopal.
With just a few weeks going into the competition he was still experimenting with his line-ups. The results of the friendlies that his team played during that period were far from encouraging. Defeats in Vietnam and Thailand were tolerable but being held by the Bangladeshis certainly pushing the fans patience to the brink.
Then came the 3-0 demolition by southern rivals Singapore in the first match.
The Malaysian line-up for the match was the one expected to be littered with players known to Rajagobal. The feeling was it is a catastrophe waiting to happen. By the end of the ninety minutes every Malaysian knew it was one.
Rajagobal knew he had to change for the next two matches to ensure qualification from the group. He did change, with four players making their first start for the tournament. It brought the required result, a 4-1 win over Laos even though the result looked beyond their reach with 23 minutes remaining.
Then came the crunch match against Indonesia and Malaysia performed almost flawlessly to win 2-0 and booked their place in the last four. Suddenly we were playing like champions and looked good to defend the cup.
Rajagobal then sprung a surprise to the nation with a 4-5-1 formation at home against Thailand for the first leg. Back to the fold was his prized player, Amar Rohidan. In the end it was a 1-1 stalemate and an away goal conceded though nobody in their right mind would blame Farizal Marlias for the Thais' equalizer.
A more positive and bold approach to the match could have brought a healthy lead for the second leg in Bangkok. Unfortunately, Rajagobal looked timid in his approach and with the Thais only needing a goalless draw to qualify, it was a mountain to climb for the holders.
Somehow, it was kind of expected that Amar Rohidan would be in the line-up thus giving me the feeling that it is "good-bye" Suzuki Cup.
In reality, the host did not have to do a lot as Malaysia did not offer much in attack. The poor decision by the referee in flashing the second yellow card to Fadli Shas certainly made the Malaysians' job even harder.
Thailand made sure that The Tigers went home with their tails between their legs when Teerasil Dangda capitalised on the mistake by Amar (ironic) to race through on goal before calmly slotting the ball past Farizal on the hour mark.
Five minutes later, it was all over for The Tigers when Farizal could not hold on to the stinging free-kick by Jakkapan Pornsai and Theerathon Bunmathan was the first to arrive to the ball to tuck it in into the goal.
Rajagopal blamed the exit on the dismissal of Fadli Shas by the referee but in reality he should be blaming himself for not being brave enough to take the fight to the Thais in the first place.