Thais pound Azkals to advance to Suzuki Cup final

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine national football team missed out on its first trip to the AFF Suzuki Cup final as they suffered a 3-0 heartbreaking loss to Thailand at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok on Wednesday, December 10.

The Thais exhibited their hunger to give the 80,000 fans in attendance a great show right from the get-go as they took control of the ball to pound the defense of the Azkals early in the first half.

As a result, the nil-nil deadlock on aggregate was finally broken as Chanathip Songkrasin struck a thunderous goal from inside to box to beat Patrick Deyto and give his squad a 1-0 advantage in the 6th minute.

Thailand continued to pound on the Azkals’ back-line for the greater part of the first half causing the latter to commit one too many fouls as Daisuke Sato and Martin Steuble were both given yellow cards for their untimely tackles.

On the other end, the booters of Manila tried to spark an outburst to hopefully equalize the score line before the break at the half but the attacks of Misagh Bahadoran and Patrick Reichelt, who came in the 32nd minute for Sato, failed to find the back of the net.

The War Elephants’ bombardment of the Azkals’ defensive line continued in the second half, prompting the latter to commit errors.

The fast-paced gameplay of the Thais started to wear down the Azkals midway through the second half as the new-found confidence of the Thomas Dooley-mentored team began to deplete after Kroekrit Thawikan doubled his team lead to 2-0.

Problems piled up for the Philippines as more yellow cards were given to their side as team skipper Rob Gier and Reichelt were booked for fouls of their own.

Fresh legs were sent in to augment the exhausted Philippine booters as they try and make a run to tie the match but the defense of the Thais were too much of a hurdle to overcome.

To make matters worse for the Azkals, Steuble incurred his second yellow card in the 82nd minute urging the referee to send him to the stands.

The Thais did not rest their legs until the end of the match as Thawikan etched another goal under his name and further extend the lead of his team to 3-0 going into the dying minutes of the final half.

With just 10 men on their side, the Manila-based national team took their last shots on goal led by Phil Younghusband and Mark Hartmann but the chances failed to convert until the final minute of regulation. -