The game started in a physical way at Daisuke Sato immediately bodychecked his man, bringing down Mongkol. A couple of fouls later and it was an early goal as Thailand curled a cross to the back post, Narubodin Weerawatnodom nodded the ball down for Chanathip Songkrasin inside the area, who had all the time in the world to pick his spot and sweep the ball into the corner of the net in the 6th minute.
It was poor defending as Chanathip was unmarked throughout the move with a Filipino midfielder running straight past him and the Thai dangerman having plenty of time within the area to settle himself and shoot. It was indicative of the Philippines’ nerves early on as they jumped in on tackles, Daisuke Sato in particular committing a couple more fouls.
With Thailand pressing forward at every opportunity, it seemed the Philippines were losing their heads a little bit, Sato committing his fourth foul of the game and living dangerously. From the free-kick, the Azkals cleared but only as far as Chanathip who hit over this time.
Sato was then replaced by Patrick Reichelt in an early substitution in the 32nd minute. It was likely much ealier than Coach Dooley wanted to make the chance, with Reichelt not 100% fit, but any other foul from Sato and he’d probably have been sent off.
Martin Steuble, moved to left back to cover Sato, straight away took out his man near the corner flag and picked up a deserved yellow himself as the Azkals continued their nervy start to the game.
Before the half-time whistle there was still time for another glorious chance for Thailand, though. First Peerapat shot over in the 39th minute, with Thailand having a man spare on the left wing again, while Patrick Reichelt headed a cross straight at the keeper in the only shot on target for the Philippines in the half.
But in the 44th minute Thailand could have doubled their lead as a great through ball sent Prakit through on goal. He tried to fake the shot and cross for Charyl Chappuis, but overhit the pass and left Chappuis stretching in vein to tap in what was a brilliant chance to kill the game.
For all their domination, Thailand had only scored one goal. An equalizer from the Azkals would mean they’d go through on away goals, and the Azkals started brightly as Martin Steuble forced a good save out of Kawin in goal for Thailand, as the big goalkeeper had to tip wide for a corner.
Better passing from the Philippines looked promising, but Thailand were dangerous on the counter. Five minutes later Prakit was left unmarked at the back post again and as he turned he took too many touches and the Azkals managed to slide in to make up for the error.
But in the 57th minute Thailand doubled their lead. Prakit’s lobbed through ball sent Kroekit through on goal. Chased down by Simone Rota, the right back couldn’t make an effective challenge without probably bringing him down and getting a red card, and Kroekit took his chance to tap beyond Deyto and put Thailand 2-0 up.
As the Philippines pushed forward in search of a first goal, though, Thailand continued looking the more dangerous. As Chanathip countered from a corner, he dribbled down the left wing but missed the two open men in the middle as he got caught by two defenders.
Moments later Prakit was on the break as Thailand had 4 on 2 at the back. The Azkals were again let off the hook as he hit his pass off the defender for a corner. It was Aguinaldo who saved the team next, on the same wing, as Thailand kept pressing and countering so well while the Azkals refused to track back.
The final substitution was made then, as Chris Greatwich came on for Paul Mulders who was once again ineffective in an Azkals shirt before Chappuis rounded Deyto on the left but couldn’t keep his balance to centre it for the third.
Then in the 79th minute Chanathip played a good through ball for Kroekit who drove wide, before Martin Steuble jumped into the back of Prakit, bum to the back of his head, and earned his second yellow card of the night. And down to ten men the Azkals’ chances evaporated.
And on the 86th minute another perfect through ball found Kroekit on the left wing, and he cut inside his defender and coolly slotted past Patrick Deyto to send Thailand through to their 4th Suzuki Cup final in 5 Suzuki Cups.
This is a Real Wakeup Call
In the end it was 3-0 and you couldn’t begrudge Thailand any of those goals. They were supreme and time and time again took the Azkals’ defence apart. We have to be classy when winning and classy in defeat here and accept that there is a problem with 6 Semi Final games without a goal now, a total of 540 minutes plus injury time.
It shows how little quality the Azkals have up front and with Phil Younghusband asked to drop back to create the chances, who’s there to finish them?
Meanwhile in the other Semi Final, Vietnam take a 2-1 lead back to Hanoi and so it looks like it’ll be Thailand versus Vietnam in the final, and I’m really not sure who’s going to win that one. Both of those countries look like the best Southeast Asia has to offer right now.
As for the Philippines, this is a great opportunity to take a good, hard look at Philippine football and see what we really need to do. There’s been great progress in the National team going from minnows to contenders in the region. But this looks like the ceiling for the Azkals with the current method.
This is a real wake up call for Philippine football and for the PFF. Thailand more than deserved the 3-0 result and it’s not just a fair reflection of the game but a fair reflection of the state of football in both countries.
If you want to support grassroots football in Payatas, home to the largest dumpsite in the Philippines as well as some absolute gems of little players, you can donate to help Fairplay for All and Payatas FC build its own futsal court, school, and urban farm here: https://www.justgiving.com/FairplayForAllFoundation/