The favorites off the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup, Thailand, sealed their place in the semi-finals today at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan.
Substitute forward Sarawut Masuk scored the game’s only goal at the 89th minute to give the Thais a well-deserved 1-0 win against the Singaporeans.
True to form, Singapore sat deep in the first half and looked to spring a counterattack. The only chance Singapore had in the period was when Khairul Amri’s longshot was easily caught by Thailand goalie Kawin Thamsatchanan.
From then on, it was all Thailand. The War Elephants were confident on the ball and looked to capitalize on gaping holes at the Singapore defense. Thai forward Sirod Chattong had two sniffs on goal, of which one forced a good save by Singapore goalie Sunny Hassan.
Singapore’s defense easily dealt with whatever Thailand threw at them. Theerathon Bunmathon’s free kick was cleared easily and Rungrath Phumichantuk saw Hassan parry away his attempt.
Time was ticking for Thailand to score in the period. The Thais’ best chance came minutes before the break when Chanathip Songkrasin’s cross was uncharacteristically headed wide by his teammate Teerasil Dangda.
It finished goalless at the break with Singapore the happier of the two countries. Thailand needed to find some inspiration in its dugout to breakdown the stubborn defense in front of them.
A similar tale unfolded in the second half, although there was almost a twist in the tale. Thailand was just coasting along looking for ways to exploit the Singapore defense, until a simple counterattack saw Singaporean defender Jumaat Jantan run through on goal only for him to squander his shot.
After that, though, things went back to normal for Thailand. Hassan performed another good save to keep the game scoreless when he prevented Songkrasin’s shot from going in.
Pass after pass, run after run from the Thais failed to unsettle Singapore. Crosses from the flanks and long balls unleashed from the back all went to naught. Singapore didn’t just park the bus as some would say, it was as if it towed a ship to impose a barricade on its borders.
Singapore’s confidence grew in the finals stages of the game. Thailand was frustrated and Singapore looked more willing to go for a goal. Two such counterattacks allowed Singapore to have as much shots on goal, but Thamsatchanan was alert to keep the clean sheet.
Come the 89th minute, the Thais finally got the goal they deserved. Chattong was replaced by Masuk earlier in the game and that change paid dividends when the latter headed in a cross by Bunmathan at the right flank much to the relief to the team and their fans in the stadium.
In the end, Thailand deservedly won 1-0 against Singapore. “We knew that Singapore had a good defense. We controlled the game. Not easy to get a scoring chance against them,” commented Thai coach Kiatisuk Senamuang. “We can work hard and continue working to the next round.”
Both countries’ next games will be on November 25 (Friday). Singapore will play Indonesia at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, 8:00 PM. On the other hand, Thailand will face the hosts Philippines at the Philippine Sports Stadium, 8:00 PM.
Thailand XI: Thamsatchanan (GK), Songkrasin, Do, Anan, Poomchantuek, Kesarat, Namwiset, Bunmathan, Yooyen, Chattong, Dangda ©.
Singapore XI: Sunny (GK), Hamzah, Amri, Baharudin, Bennett, Harun ©, Jantan, Mohana, Hameed, Ramil, Kumar.