CHIANGRAI TIMES– Though the scoreline suggests a reasonably tight affair, Thailand pretty much dominated the play and ended up being deserving victors at the end of the day.
Thailand immediately seized the initiative after kick off, dominating the play in midfield. The dodgy pitch condition wasn’t helping at all as it evolved into a scrappy affair in the first 20 minutes.
Winfried Schaefer’s men piled on attack after attack, but were being frustrated by the hardworking Philippines defence.
It took the Thais until the 38th minute to open the scoring as an unmarked Jakkapan Pornsai latched onto a cross from Theerathon Bunmathan and fired home past the helpless Eduard Sacapano.
Just as the dust was beginning to settle on the opening goal, Thailand exploded again. Star man Teerasil Dangda calmly threaded a through ball to Anucha Kitpongsri, who proceeded to go pass Eduardo before slotting home to double the lead. It was a real statement of intent from the Thais, who last won the tournament in 2002.
The second half saw a much improved performance from the Azkals, who were tipped by many to be the surprise packet of this tournament. Marvin Angeles was brought on in place of Phil Younghusband and the Azkals fought hard to get back into the game.
However, Thailand were high on confidence and never looked like they were going to concede. In fact, they nearly added a third goal through Sumanya Purisay but his shot went wide.
In the 74th minute, Philippines finally scored their first goal through Paul Mulders, who finished well after a terrific cross from Patrick Reichelt. It sparked the game and the Azkals began to believe in a comeback. Nonetheless, there was controversy when their coach Michael Weiss got sent to the stands. Weiss threw the ball at Kitpongsri, who was apparently lying on the ground with an injury.
Philippines had several desperate attempts to restore parity but Thailand’s dominating display in defence prevented them from doing so, as the Thais secure vital three points on opening day.