Thailand suffer heartbreak in final (February 05, 2007)



Singapore win title after 1-1 draw



TOR CHITTINAND



Singapore won the Asean Football Championship last night when they held Thailand to a 1-1 draw in an entertaining match for an aggregate 3-2 victory at a packed Supachalasai stadium . It was a frustrating night for the Thai team and 32,000 enthusiastic fans at the stadium who had been hoping to turn the tables after their controversial 2-1 defeat in Singapore last Wednesday.


The Thai team played their hearts out but just couldn't score and you could feel their utter disppointment when the final whistle blew. Singapore too played well with their defence being particularly hard to break down.


Despite pre-match fears of possible trouble, the crowd behaved well and there were also no major incidents on the pitch although the exciting game was played in a competitive manner and there were some tough tackles.






''We are delighted,'' said Singapore's Serbian coach Radojko Avramovic. ''It was a great game. We needed to score and we did it. I would like to congratulate our players.''


Thai coach Chanvit Phalajivin was naturally very disappointed ''I want to say sorry to the Thai fans. Our players were under a lot of pressure and did their best,'' he said.


''If we had taken our chances we could have put the game away.''




Although Thailand were the better team on the night, they were to regret some missed chances when they were 1-0 up which could have sealed a victory.


As it was, a fine goal in the 81st minute by substitute Khairul Amri was enough for defending champions Singapore to retain the title.




Cheered on by the crowd Thailand attacked from the start but it was Singapore who made the first significant strike of the night.


In the ninth minute the visitors thought they had gone ahead when they had the ball in the back of the net, but Mohammad Shahril bin Ishak was ruled offside.


Apart from that incident it was Thailand who took the game to Singapore and in the 17th minute the hosts nearly went ahead when a fierce free-kick by Datsakorn Thonglao was well saved by Singapore custodian Lionel Lewis.


Five minutes later Thailand were foiled by Lewis again when he made a great save at close range from Pipat Thonkanya.


Thailand continued to put on the pressure and were rewarded in the 37th minute when a beautiful chip from Datsakorn over the Singapore defence found Pipat who volleyed the ball home in great style.


The crowd erupted, knowing Thailand needed just one more goal to take an aggregate lead.


Despite more Thai pressure. the teams went in at the interval with the score 1-0.






After the break Thailand came out firing and it seemed only a matter of time before they got the vital second goal. However they spurned a series of chances with both Pipat and Suchao Nutnum guilty of not finishing off from close range.


The Thai team were to regret those misses when, against the run of play, Singapore replied in stunning fashion in the 81st minute.


As Amri bore down on the goal the Thai defence backed off and Amri suddenly let fly with a beautiful shot which gave the Thai keeper no chance.


The spectators were stunned into near silence at this setback but soon found their voice again as they tried to rally their team in the last 10 minutes.


However the Singapore defence held firm and when the final whistle blew the whole team understandably reacted with unrestrained delight while the Thai players looked totally crestfallen.






''Singapore deserved to win today,'' admitted Thailand's team manger Thavatchai Sajakul.


''Wednesday's incident had no effect on our team. We had our chances in the second half to go 2-0 up but we didn't take them. This is football. We can't always win. We just have to put it behind us.''




Secretary general of the Football Association of Thailand, Worawi Makudi said he thought Thailand were unlucky. ''Playing at home we should have beaten them but we failed to take our chances,'' he said. ''The team tried hard but they couldn't score. It was a good game.''




Singapore as the winner of the Asean Cup received US$100,000 (3.6 million baht) and Thailand as the runner-up of the tournament received US$50,000 (1.8 million baht).




It was the third time Singapore have won the tournament while Thailand have also won it three times




Singaporean striker, Mohammad Noh Alam Shah was top scorer in the tournament with 10 goals while Vietnam won the fair play award.




Before the match started there was almost a carnival atmosphere in the crowd who looked like they were determined to enjoy themselves, whatever the result.


With the majority of them wearing yellow it was a magnificent sight and created an excllent atmosphere despite the strict security with large numbers of police.


Three hours before the kick-off the ground was virtually full and the crowd made their own entertainment by singing and chanting.


When the players first arrived at the stadium they were warmly welcomed, including the Singapore players although there were a few boos.


Amongst the crowd were several well-known personalities including local film stars Methinee ''Nino'' Buranasiri, ''Joy'' Siriluk Ponchoke.