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Azkals’ Suzuki Cup dreams fade away with heavy defeat against Thailand

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The Philippines has to wait for two more years before having another shot at AFF Championship glory. The Azkals were sent packing by regional football heavyweights Thailand via an emphatic 3-0 victory at the packed Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok on Wednesday night.

Thomas Dooley’s lads consistently started their games in the Suzuki Cup poorly and this game was definitely not an exception. As early as the first minute, Daisuke Sato gave away a free kick. Taken by Charyl Chappuis, the delivery was cleared well but Deeprom Prakit shot just wide to the right. The Thais focused on building up their attack from the right flank, causing problems for Sato.

However, Sato was not involved in the next play that allowed Thailand to create an opportunity from another dead ball situation. Chappuis, fouled by Martin Steuble near the Philippine touchline, launched the ball into the box but was cleared to Perapat Notechaiya whose cross found Narubadin Weerawatnodom inside the box. Attracting much of the Philippines’ defense, Weerawatnodom nodded the ball to the unmarked Chanathip Songkrasin. The midfielder just had enough time to send a clinically struck shot into the bottom corner inside the game’s seventh minute. The breakthrough goal ensured that the match would end within 90 minutes.

It also meant that the Philippines definitely needed to score to enter the finals. Thailand was aware of that and the home side did a marvelous job in starving the Philippines of goalscoring opportunities. Whenever the Philippines had touches in the Thai half, they either blew their shots wide or had their passes foiled.

On the other end, the Thais kept their visitors defending almost all throughout the first half. Chappuis, Songkraisorn and Mongkol Thosakrai constantly worried the Azkals’ backline. The best chance for the three-time regional champs came in the 44th minute. Deeprom Prakit only had Patrick Deyto between him and the goal but decided to send the ball towards the path of Chappuis who lacked the pace to scoop the ball into an unguarded net.

The Philippines went into halftime facing a one-goal deficit despite being virtually muted by Thailand in the first 45 minutes. Knowing that an away goal will be a huge game changer, the Azkals opened the second half aggressively but they lacked enough touches to worry the Thais. The best chance to draw level came from Steuble whose effort was kept out by Kawin Thamsatchanan. The Thai captain’s save was a replica of his heroic attempt in preventing Phil Younghusband’s free kick from going into the net in Manila.

A goal did come but unfortunately for the Filipinos, it fell in favor of the War Elephants. In the 58th minute, Prakit’s pass proved lethal this time around. His delivery found Kroekrit Thawikan who raced ahead of Simone Rota before converting against the helpless Deyto. Thailand’s lead doubled and it seemingly proved enough to eliminate the toothless Azkals.

The visitors had a decent amount of possession that they longed for before falling behind courtesy of Thawikan’s goal. It did not seem to scare the 2012 runner-up squad who always had a good look on goal whenever they approached the Philippine box. Eleven minutes from time, Chappuis rounded past Deyto but could not send his attempt from a narrow angle into the goal.

Moments later, Steuble was sent off after being shown a second yellow card for a sloppy challenge on Prakit along the halfway line in the 82nd minute. With a man advantage, Thailand did not have difficulty scoring a third. Sarach Yooyen fed Thawikan with a lobbed through ball before waltzing his way into his second goal of the night. His 86th minute strike glazed a resounding win over the Philippines who had been knocked out for the third straight occasion in the semifinals.

Younghusband was denied of a consolation goal by Thamsatchanan late in the game. Had it gone in, it would have at least marked the first goal the Philippines would have had in the semifinals. But just like getting past the semifinals or winning the trophy this year, it was not meant to be. Until 2016, this time definitely on home soil, will the Philippines see action in the competition that they will co-host with Myanmar.

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