Thailand get crucial away win (December 17, 2008)



TOR CHITTINAND



Thailand moved closer to reaching the AFF Suzuki Cup final after beating Indonesia 1-0 in the first leg of the semi-finals in Jakarta last night.

Teerasil Dangda's header after just five minutes was enough to hand Thailand a huge advantage going into the second leg at Bangkok's Rajamangala National Stadium on Saturday.

The 20-year-old striker, who was released by English club Manchester City earlier this year, silenced the raucous crowd at Gelora Bung Karno stadium when his header looped into the top corner from 10 yards.

For the second match in succession, Indonesia conceded an early goal. In their last preliminary match against Singapore to determine the group champions, Indonesia were breached just minutes into the game.

The Thais could have scored three more goals inside the first 24 minutes, with captain Datsakorn Thonglao's free-kick saved by the Indonesian goalkeeper and striker Teerathep Winothai twice going close.

Fullback Suree Sukha almost made it 2-0 after 39 minutes when his goal-bound effort was cleared off the line. Datsakorn's lofted free-kick then struck the bar soon after the break which was the first of his two clear second-half chances.

Indonesia battled to equalise in the last five minutes but were kept at bay by the resolute Thais, who extended their winning run to four games having scored 12 goals with none conceded.

The Indonesians will now have the difficult task of trying to overcome their opponents away from home on Saturday.

''It was a tough match. We had several scoring chances and could have done better,'' said Thailand coach Peter Reid.

''It's only half-time, there's still another half to go in Bangkok.''

Reid picked out Indonesia goalkeeper Markus Harison Rihihina for keeping the score down.

''He made some outstanding saves. But our strikers also missed some great chances,'' he said.

Indonesia coach Benny Dolo refused to throw in the towel and said it was not yet over. ''Anything can happen. It's not impossible for us to recover and win away,'' he said.

Benny admitted that it was his defenders who messed up.

''No one challenged the Thai player (Teerasil) when he went up to head the ball. We have not lost heart and will battle with all our might in Thailand,'' Benny said.

Vietnam host defending champions Singapore in the semi-final first leg today with the return match scheduled for Sunday.

The semi-final winners meet in a two-leg final on Dec 24 and 28.

LINE, BYELINE-UPS

Thailand: Kittisak Rawangpa (GK), Suree Sukha, Chonlatit Jantakam, Nataporn Phanrit, Datsakorn Thonglao (Cpt), Suchao Nutnum, Teerasil Dangda, Natthapong Samabna, Teerathep Winothai, Surat Sukha, Sutee Suksomkit

Indonesia: Markus Harison Rihihina (GK), Charis Yulianto (Cpt), Ismed Sofyan, Isnan Ali, Irsyad Aras, Nova Arianto, Muhammad Ilham, Firman Utina, Ponaryo Astaman, Budi Sudarsono, Bambang Pamungkas