Thais top group with perfect record (December 11, 2008)



PHUKET : Thailand thrashed arch-rivals Malaysia 3-0 in their last preliminary round match yesterday to reach the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Teerasil Dangda scored two goals and Sutee Suksomkit added another as Thailand topped Group B of the Southeast Asian championship at Surakul stadium.

The Thais, who had defeated Vietnam 2-0 and hammered Laos 6-0, maintain their perfect record. They completed the group phase unbeaten and without conceding a goal.

In the other Group B match last night, Vietnam beat Laos 4-0 to make it to the last four.

In the two-leg semi-finals, Thailand meet Group A runners-up Indonesia, while defending champions and Group A winners Singapore take on Vietnam.

In a hot-tempered contest, it was Malaysia who created the first chance of the game when Indra Putra Mahayuddin turned in a swerving free kick which forced Thailand goalkeeper Kittisak Rawangpa to scramble for the save.

After that, it was relatively one-sided as the Thais, backed by some 15,000 screaming fans, pressed the Malaysians. Thailand, who only needed to avoid a heavy defeat to go through, had several scoring chances.

Their best chance came after 17 minutes when captain Datsakorn Thonglao cleverly lobbed Malaysia goalkeeper Syed Adney Syed Hussein from just inside Malaysia's half.

Unfortunately, his shot hit the bar and Suchao Nutnum incredibly sent the loose ball straight at Hussein.

However, the three-time champions went ahead after 23 minutes. Sutee's drive went straight at Hussein but the goalkeeper could only punch the ball into his own net.

After the interval, young striker Teerasil, who was released by English club Manchester City a few months ago, dribbled past several defenders to score Thailand's second goal.

Teerasil wrapped up the game when he went clear from substitute striker Ronnachai Rangsiyo's pass to net his second goal with 15 minutes to go.

Ronnachai himself had a couple good chances in the final minutes but failed to find the net.

"We got what we expected in the first stage. I am very happy with my players. They have done a good job," said Thailand coach Peter Reid.

"We played as a team from attacking to defending. We have a good attitude but there are still things to improve."

Asked about Thailand's semi-final against Indonesia, Reid said: "I have heard that it is difficult to play Indonesia on their home soil.

"I still have time for our plan. I am sure we are ready for the match in Jakarta"

Malaysia coach B Sathianathan said: "It was difficult to play the game when we were under pressure to win.

"We started the second half badly and we were not disciplined at the back."

In the semi-finals, Thailand travel to Indonesia on Dec 16 and the return leg in Bangkok is scheduled for Dec 20. Vietnam host Singapore on Dec 17 and the second leg will take place on Dec 21.

The final will also be played on a home-and-away basis on Dec 24 and 28.

GROUP B STANDINGS

!P!W!D!L!F!A!Pts!
Thailand !3! 3! 0! 0! 11! 0! 9!
Vietnam !3! 2! 0 !1 !7 !4 !6 !
Malaysia !3! 1! 0! 2! 5! 6! 3!
Laos !3! 0! 0! 3! 0 !13 !0!