BOCAUE, Bulacan— The Thailand War Elephants went on the counterattack in the 81st minute and prevailed over the Philippine Azkals, 1-0, last night at the Philippine Sports Stadium here.
The setback knocked the Azkals out of contention in the AFF-Suzuki Cup Football Tournament after they finished their Group A campaign with one loss against two draws.
The Indonesian Merah Putihs, scoring 2 markers in the second half, turned back the Singapore Lions, 2-1, over at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila.
Their 1-1-1 win-draw-loss card allowed the Merah Putihs to join the War Elephants in the home-and-away semifinals.
Things turned against the Azkals right after Misagh Bahadoran went for a floater that sailed above the head of Adison Promrak inside the box in the 78th minute.
It was caught by Thai goalie Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool, who then hurled it to midfield.
A possession battle ensued, and striker Sarawuk Masuk jumped out of the fray, and went for a counterattack. He sprinted towards Azkals goalie Roland Muller’s direction, and with defender Kevin Ingresso chasing him.
Masuk outsprinted Ingresso and slammed home Thailand’s lone goal which allowed them to finish Group A with a three-game sweep.
First time for Azkals
It’s the first time that the Azkals have not reached the semis after making it in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
For Thailand, this will be its third stint in the finals since winning the crown in 2014.
“Tonight, we showed the fans how good we play. And we had to rest our top players,” said Thai coach Kaitisuk Senamuang.
The Azkals defense held in the first half.
Amani Aguinaldo put down five dangerous attacks, first flicking away midfielder Kroekrit Thawikan’s attack in the 10th
This also included one when he slid the ball off Peerapat Notechaiaya in the 11th.
Aguinaldo joined Kenshiro Daniels and Marco Casambre in frustrating Thawikan again in the 20th minute.
The Thais played with their top players like goalie Kawin Thamsatchanan watching from the bench, and resting with star striker Teerasil Dangda and midfielder Chanathip Songkrasin.