MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Azkals succumbed to a 2-1 loss against table-toppers Thailand in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 on Tuesday, December 14, at the National Stadium in Kallang, Singapore.
For the first time since 2016, the Azkals won’t participate in the semifinal stage of the delayed regional biennial tournament as they remain stuck with three points with a +5 goal difference after three matches.
The match’s first goal was created by left-back Theerathon Bunmathan who got past Patrick Reichelt with a brilliant dribbling move. He then raced down the left side of the pitch to produce a stunning cross to feed Teerasil Dangda.
Dangda was in the perfect position to smash home the ball as Jesper Nyholm was nowhere near it while Justin Baas was a split second too late to deny the goalscorer at the 26th minute.
The Philippines found the equalizer at 57th minute after Reichelt capitalized on a poor clearance by Thai center-back Manuel Tom Bihr off a long free-kick from Kevin Ingreso. The ball bounced back inside the penalty box and the starting right wing-back was the quickest player to react as he found the back of the net with an accurate right-footed shot from a tight angle.
Dangda grabbed his 19th career goal of the tournament by smashing a penalty kick at the 78’ mark. Thailand earned the spot kick after substitute Thitiphan Puangjan went down inside the box after Amani Aguinaldo extended his leg to claim a loose ball.
It seemed like there was minimal contact, but referee Qasim Al Hatmi did not hesitate to award the penalty to the Thais.
Thailand, on the other hand, stays hot with three consecutive victories in the five-team group. The Thais have beaten Timor Leste, Myanmar, and the Philippines with a combined final score of 8-1.
Their latest triumph secures them a semifinal slot regardless of the outcome in their match against tournament hosts Singapore on December 18.
It also gives them a third win in four matches versus the Azkals since the 2014 edition of the Suzuki Cup.
Head coach Stewart Hall decided to change things up as he ditched the 4-2-3-1 formation and opted for a back-three to counter the free-scoring Thailand squad.
Nyholm, Aguinaldo, and youngster Baas – who returned to the line-up after sitting out the last match – formed the backline while Iain Ramsay got his first start in the tournament. Bienvenido Marañon and Amin Nazari were dropped to accommodate the formation change.
Despite the shake up, the Thais immediately found a hole in the Philippines defense as Kritsada Kaman timed his run beautifully off a free-kick, but his close-range attempt from a tight angle was saved by Philippines goalkeeper Kevn Hansen.
Thailand remained patient as they dominated the possession by passing the ball around the pitch and bombarding the Azkals with a ton of crosses inside the penalty box. They almost got a second goal at the 30th minute, but Narubadin Weerawatnodom was flagged offside following his tap-in off a rebound from a missed shot.
With Thailand dominating possession and playing high up the field, it seemed like counter-attack was the best way for the Azkals to score, but the Thais defended well enough to keep the Filipinos scoreless inside the first 45 minutes.
Thailand continued to hog the ball in the second half as the Philippines ended the match with only 31.2% of the possession. The winners also received 21 free kicks and had 11 shots on target.
Supachok Sarachat had an attempt at the 52nd minute, but his shot was comfortably saved by Hanssen.
The goalie was called into action once again after Thanawat Suengchitthawon’s launched a long range shot a minute later. Hanssen produced a stunning save as his touch changed the direction of the ball which eventually hit the bar.
Another shot was attempted by Thailand at the 59th, but this time, it was Daisuke Sato who prevented the goal as his clearance near the goal post that kept the score at 1-1.
Mike Ott, Yrick Gallantes, Nazari, and Marañon were introduced in the last 34 minutes of the match as Hall tried to salvage at least a point in their penultimate group stage match.
Substitute Nazari attempted a right-footed shot outside the box in stoppage time, but it went too high and wide to the right.
The Azkals will look to at least end the tournament with a victory as they take on Myanmar for their last group stage match in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 on Saturday, December 18, 5:30 pm, at the same venue. – Rappler.com