VIENTIANE (18 July 2011) – It was cloudy, then it rained heavily, soaking every player to the bone. As the rain intensified, it became dark and the floodlights had to be turned on. Out of the blue, the sun emerged. Oddly enough, as a rainbow formed over the stadium, Thailand scored twice in eight minutes to book their place in the final.
Thailand’s 2-0 win over Singapore in a thrilling semifinal showdown today will lead them to a final clash against either hosts Laos or surprise package Myanmar in two days. Thailand’s hotshot striker tonight was Saran Puangbut who scored both goals in the 62nd and 70th minutes.
Despite the changing conditions, both teams did well to adapt and played their hearts out throughout. In the end though, Thailand took advantage of a chink on the left of the Singapore side to plunder the goals. The Thais actually had a few more shots coming in from the right but were either saved or off the target. Atthawit Sukchuai, Suradet Klankham, Saran and Chaowat Veerachat were always lurking in and around the box waiting for the chance to strike.
Singapore must be credited for an outstanding performance, especially from their strikers, talented skipper Adam Swani, Muhammad Zulfadhmi Suzliman and the speedy Muhammad Azhar Ramli. They created numerous chances but were unfortunate not to convert any of them. Had they scored off one of their earlier chances, the outcome could have been different.
But as it turned out, it was Thailand who prevailed in the shifting conditions today.
“Singapore were a tough team to beat but we did what was expected today to beat them,” said Sasom Probprasert, the chief coach of Thailand.
“The rainy conditions did not exactly allowed us to play our usual game but at least we made the final.”
Even before the start, the skies were dark and threatening to open up. Not surprisingly, seven minutes after the kick-off, the rain came crashing down. Just seconds earlier, Adam Swandi let loose a long shot which was saved.
Despite the heavy conditions, the players did not let up. Singapore’s Raja Ahmad Zaki created a superb opportunity after evading two defenders at the top of the box to line-up is shot which unfortunately slipped over the bar.
A few minutes on, Singapore had a freekick about 10-metres outside the box. Adam and Muhammad Zulfadhmi prepared for the shot but the former slammed into the wall.
The rain began to intensify but the players did not let up. Just after the 20-minute mark, Thai skipper Amnart, latching on to a weak clearance, drilled a low shot from outside the box which was slightly off.
In the last minute, Chaowat blasted a well struck shot but to his dismay curled away from the far post. The rain eased off in the last 10 minutes of the half and the teams headed to the locker rooms relieved to get out of the wet.
After the break, play swung from end to end, with both sides taking shots. But just past the hour mark, just about when the rain eased off and the sun came shining through, Saran sneaked in the opener. He had raced down the right and caught the Singapore defence off when his lob sailed over them and landed into goal.
Eight minutes on, Saran sped down the right, broke through the defence and scored a sizzler that put the game beyond Singapore. Soon after the second goal, the rainbow disappeared and Thailand were soon celebrating qualifying for the final.
THAILAND: Apirak Worawong (GK), Rachen Sobunma, Jeerawut Kulchart, Amnart Pamornprasert (Cpt), Atthawit Sukchuai, Suradet Klankham, Suchanon Makison, Saran Puangbut, Jutitep Tonglim, Chaowat Veerachat, Sittichok Kannoo
Coach: Wisut Wichaya
Goalscorers: Saran Puangbut (62nd, 70th)
Yellow: Amnart Pamornprasert (37th), Suradet Klankham (54th)
SINGAPORE: Heirul Suhanes Mohamed Shanel (GK), Mahathir Azeman, R. Aarvin, Muhammad Amirul Adli Azmi, Muhammad Muhelmy Suhaimi, Adam Swandi (Cpt), Muhamad Azhar Ramli, Raja Ahmad Zaki Raja Rajah Kamarul Zaman, Khairuddin Omar, Taufiq Muqminin Hossain
Coach: Dejan Gluscevic
Yellow: R. Aarvin (29th), Taufiq Mugminin (71st)
Referee: Hoang Anh Tuan (Vie)
Assistant Referee 1: Mohd Yusri Mohamad (Mas)
Assistant Referee 2: Sompavanth Luong Lath (Lao)
Fourth Official: Sipaseuth Sinbandith (Lao)
Match Commissioner: Yeh Htut Tin (Mya)
Referee Assessor: Augustine Arlando (Sin)
General Coordinator: U Tin Aung (Mya)
FINAL FIXTURES (20 July 2011)
1700hrs: Semifinal 2 Loser vs Singapore
1900hrs: Thailand vs Semifinal 2 Winner