Ukrit the hero as Thais claim AFF title (14 August 2009)

HO CHI MINH CITY – Thailand enjoyed a massive boost ahead of their hosting of the 2010 AFC U19 Championship qualifiers in November as goalkeeper Ukrit Wongmeena saved three penalties to defeat Australia in the final of the AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) Under 19 Championship on Wednesday.

Ukrit denied Jason Davidson, Eli Babalj and Dylan McGowan as the Thais defeated the defending champions 3-2 in the shootout after the sides were locked at 2-2 at the end of extra-time.

Natthawut Khamrin opened the scoring in the 69th minute only for defender McGowan, who is on the books of Scottish Premier League side Hearts, to level for the Young Socceroos in the dying seconds of regulation-time.

Adisak Krisorn restored Thailand’s advantage in the 101st minute only for Australia to stage a late comeback for the second time in the match with Jared Lum equalising in stoppage-time.

But the Thais were not to be denied and Apisit Khamwang, Piyarat Lajungreed and skipper Surachet Ngamtip, who scored the winner over Malaysia in the semi-finals and in the 1-1 draw with the Australians in the group stage, all on target in the shootout.

“It was a really good competition for us even though we did not defend the title we won last year,” said Australia coach Jan Versleijen.

“The players are all new and we will have some time to develop themfor the AFC qualifiers. But Thailand played really well on the day and they deserved to win the crown.”

Australia travel to Jakarta for their AFC U19 Championship qualifiers where they will face hosts Indonesia, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore in Group F while Thailand host Group E and entertain Bangladesh, Korea Republic, Laos, Macau and Vietnam, who took third in the AFF event with a 3-0 victory over Malaysia.

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