BANGKOK (24 Nov 2012) – Hosts Thailand survived a late charge from a gutsy Philippines side to win their opening AFF Suzuki Cup Group A match at the Rajamangala Stadium here tonight.
The two goals the former champions bagged in the first half proved enough to lead them to a 2-1 win over their rivals whose coach Michael Weiss claimed the dubious honour of receiving the first red card of the tournament.
Thailand were dominant in the first half and took the fight to their opponents, scoring through Jakkapan Pornsai and Anucha Kitpoongsri in the 40th and 41st minute respectively. It looked like it was Thailand all the way until Paul Mulders’ strike in the 76th minute to renew hopes of a comeback.
Despite their best efforts, the Philippines could not find the equaliser.
“We have played with different teams in the last few friendlies and tonight was no different,” said Winfried Schaefer, the chief coach of Thailand afterwards. “But the players showed a lot of courage and determination and hunger and we are naturally satisfied with the first three points.”
The expectations were undeniably high for the Philippines. Much has been written and said of them and their many European-based stars. The inclusion of several foreign players two years ago saw the Philippines reached the semi-finals the last time around.
With more Euro-based players this year, the Filipinos were obviously looking for a positive result beginning with the opening game against Thailand.
But that was not to be as Thailand stormed a 2-0 lead in the first half as Jakkapan and Anucha took their chances well to take the pressure of the hosts.
Not too long after the break, Thailand could have surged further ahead. Anucha picked up a back-header from Phichitphong Choeichiu but as he prepared to take the shot, he appeared to lose his footing which resulted with the ball sailing over the bar.
In the 67th minute, Teerasil Dangda could not keep his header down which was a huge relief for the Philippines defence. They had another scare a few minutes on when Sumanya Purisay managed to beat the offside trap. As the keeper raced towards him, Sumanya cheekily slipped the ball under the keeper but to his horror, the ball slammed into the side netting.
Against the run of play, the Philippines charged back after a clinical finish from Paul Mulders. He picked up a low cross from Patrick Reichelt to easily place the ball past the Thai keeper in the 76th minute. The Filipinos were all fired up and began to force their way forward in search of the equaliser.
But they suffered a setback when coach Weiss was sent off by referee Sato Ryuji from Japan for throwing the ball at an injured Thai player who was on the ground not very far from the Philippines bench. He watched the remaining nine minutes and five added minutes from the stand.
“I don’t blame the referee for the loss tonight,” said Weiss after the match. “We did not play well enough in the first half and by the time we tried to come back, we did not have enough time.”