Walkout overshadows 2-1 defeat (February 01, 2007)

Disputed penalty gives S'pore victory


Singapore won the first leg of the Asean Championship final 2-1 last night but the game was overshadowed by the Thai team walking off the pitch and refusing to play for 15 minutes after the referee had awarded the hosts a hotly disputed penalty. The score was 1-1 with eight minutes to play and Thailand were looking good for returning to Bangkok with at least a draw.

But then Malaysian referee C. Ravichandran ruled that Thai centreback Niweat Siriwong had pulled down Noh Alam Shah in the box and awarded a penalty.

The Thai players were furious with the decision and television replays suggested there was little contact between the two players.

After remonstrating with the referee for several minutes the angry Thai team walked off to the side of the pitch where coach Chanvit Phalajivin and team manager Thavatchai Sajakul tried to defuse the situation.

Confusion reigned as officials tried tp persuade the Thai team to carry on.

Chanvit, who did not attend the post match press conference, told the Post he too was very upset with the penalty decision.

''It was a very poor decision by the referee,'' he said. ''We will send a letter of complaint to the Asean Football Federation (AFF).''

Eventually the Thai players were persuaded to return to the pitch and 15 minutes after the original incident Malaysia's Mustafic Fahrudin coolly slotted home the spot kick to give his side what could be a crucial 2-1 advantage.

It was an unhappy ending to what had been a hotly contested but rather disappointing match with the referee issuing seven yellow cards and being kept busy by lots of petty fouls.

The match was played in a tense atmosphere from the start with the 55,000 capacity crowd getting right behind their team as they sought to take a winning margin to Bangkok for the second leg on Sunday.

After a scrappy opening period Singapore took the lead in the 17th minute. Two shots had been blocked by the Thai defence but the ball fell to Noh Alam Shah in the penalty area and he turned on it to put a crisp shot past Thai goalkeeper Kittisak Rawangpa.

Play was untidy for the rest of the half with neither side creating a clear-cut chance. The score remained 1-0 at the interval.

After the break the Thai team looked more purposeful and were rewarded in the 50th minute. Pipat Thonkanya showed a lot of poise as he rounded Singapore keeper Lionel Lewis to slot the ball home and make it 1-1.

The Thai striker was given another opportunity shortly after but hit the ball high and wide.

As the game entered the final quarter Thailand appeared to have weathered the storm and were looking the most likely team to score until the penalty was awarded in the 82nd minute. The incident followed a free kick by Shi Jia Yi, leading to chaotic scenes on the pitch as the Thai team protested.

Play did not resume until the 97th minute and the final 15 minutes of play was very scrappy with the final whistle coming as something of a relief.

Some of the Thai players were still arguing with the referee after the final whistle.

Thavatchai was also very upset with the referee.

''The referee's poor decision created the problem.'' he said. ''We persuaded the players to go back on, as a walkout would affect the kingdom's reputation and could affect our position as host for the Asian Cup.''

Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic thought the penalty was perfectly justified.

''I don't understand what the Thai coach was doing, or what point he was trying to make,'' he said.

''There were many players in the area. They were pulling our players all the time. Their punishment came in the end,'' added Avramovic.

The second leg at Supachalsai stadium in Bangkok on Sunday promises to be another very tense affair and there will almost certainly be extra security to prevent any trouble.

The match will kick off at 7pm and will be shown live on Channel 7 and Star Sports.

Tickets are 100, 200 and 300 baht and will be on sale at the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) office on Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday from 9am to 12 noon and 2pm until the match kick-off.