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2016 AFF Championship, Group Stage
  • Sarawut Masuk (81')

Thailand knock out Philippines for perfect 2016 AFF Cup record

Thailand team vs. Saudi Arabia WCQ FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

Philippines crashed out of the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup as Thailand earned a 1-0 win, thanks a late goal from Sarawut Mask for the second time in four days.

Sarawut struck in the 80th minute on Tuesday to defeat Singapore, and repeated the trick to dump the co-hosts out of the tournament. Indonesia's 2-1 victory over Singapore in Group A's other fixture ensured that the Azkals would not advance to the last four for the first time since 2008.

The hosts looked to have the perfect chance to end a 44-year wait for a victory over Thailand when the defending champions chose to make wholesale changes to the side, who were playing their fourth game in 10 days, including the World Cup qualifier at home to Australia on Nov. 15.

This gave 2014 hero Charyl Chappuis his first start of this year's tournament, and Sintaweechai Hathairattanakool wore the keeper's gloves ahead of Kawin Thamsatchanan.

But, in the end, Kiatisuak Senamuang's second-string side flexed their muscles with a comfortable victory.

The hosts made the brighter start, but Thailand first threatened. After five minutes, 17-year-old Marco Casambre misjudged a long ball, and Mongkol Tossakrai got on the wrong side of him. The Thai winger let the ball bounce, and hooked in a volley that Roland Muller did well to push wide.

But Mongkol came even closer at the wrong end just a minute later. His attempted, clearing header, glanced off his forehead and looked certain to end up in his own net before bouncing back off the inside of the post.

The home side created a decent opportunity in the 17th minute when Hikaru Minegishi found space on the left-hand side of the box. Unfortunately for the hosts, his shot was weak and trundled into the arms of Sintaweechai.

Despite fielding a second-string side, the Thais were proving more than a match for the hosts. The Azkals looked nervous in defence against the pace of Mongkol, and the left-wing thrust of Kroekrit Thaweekarn.

The War Elephants came close to taking the lead in the 26th minute after a fine break down the right. The ball was fed to the edge of the box where Chappuis laid it off to Kroekrit, whose left-footed strike went just wide.

The Azkals spurned another good opening two minutes later. Manny Ott got a clear sight of goal from 18 yards out, but mis-hit his shot, and Sintaweechai gathered easily again.

Ott came closer soon after when his long-range shot was pushed wide by the Thai keeper. Phil Younghusband should then have given his side the lead, but he angled a free header wide from close range.

The Thais hit back when Chappuis burst through on the right before letting fly from 20 yards, but Muller got down well to hold the shot.

And Thailand had a great chance to open the scoring just before half-time when Kroekrit put in an excellent deep cross from the left. Mongkol seemed perfectly positioned to place his header past the stranded Muller, but got his contact wrong and nodded over the bar.

With the onus on Philippines to win, they made two half-time substitutions to try and force the issue. James Younghusband and Misagh Bahadoran came on to add some attacking impetus.

Early in the second half, the Azkals struggled to make inroads, with just a couple of long-range efforts from Manny Ott that failed to trouble Sintaweechai.

And it was Thailand who had the best early chance of the second half when Sarawut's excellent pass put Kroekrit through on goal. The Chonburi winger got an effort on target, but Muller did brilliantly to come out early and block the shot.

The Azkals quickly responded when James Younghusband's cross from the right found Bahadoran, but the striker's header was just too high.

Things were becoming more tense, with eyes and ears also on the game between Singapore and Indonesia.

Thailand had an excellent chance to open the scoring when a quick free kick caught the hosts napping. Sarwawut fired the ball across the face of goal, and Mongkol just failed to connect cleanly in front of an open goal.

They came close again, with 15 minutes remaining, when Kroekrit went through on goal, but his powerful strike hit the side netting.

Midfielder Kevin Ingreso came on for Casambre in the Azkals' last throw of the dice, but they were hit by a sucker punch with nine minutes remaining. An excellent through ball from Prakit Deeprom found Sarawut racing clear, and the Bangkok Glass winger side-footed past Muller for his second goal of the tournament.

This blow was soon compounded by news that Indonesia had taken a 2-1 lead over Singapore, meaning the Azkals now needed to score twice to advance.

The hosts battled to rescue the situation, and Bahadoran's dipping effort was tipped over by Sintaweechai.

Substitute Sirroch Chatthong almost sealed the win for Thailand when he danced through the home defence in added time before fluffing his finish by hitting it straight at Muller.

But Thailand would hold on for the victory as the champions made it three wins from three. The Azkals ended a disappointing campaign as hosts, failing to win a single game.

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