War Elephants reach AFF Cup semis
Teerasil enjoys double delight in Azkals win
Teerasil Dangda scored twice as Thailand defeated the Philippines 2-1 to qualify for the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup in Singapore on Tuesday night.
The veteran striker opened the scoring for the War Elephants after 26 minutes and netted the winner from the penalty spot in the 78th minute at Singapore's National Stadium.
Patrick Reichelt was on target for the Azkals in the 57th minute in their third game in Group A.
With three wins from their first three games, Mano Polking's men booked a ticket to the last four with one match to spare in the group stage of the biennial event.
The Philippines, with three points from three games, were eliminated.
German-Brazilian coach Polking will be able to rest some of his key players when the Thais meet Singapore in their last group game.
With Tuesday's strikes, Teerasil, 33, is now the all-time top scorer of the Southeast Asian championship with 19 goals.
He and retired Singapore forward Noh Alam Shah were joint highest scorers with 17 goals ahead of yesterday's match.
Teerasil has now scored four times in the 2020 edition of the Asean championship, postponed from last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Polking made only one change in the starting line-up against the Philippines with Supachok Sarachart included in the first 11.
Thailand, led by playmaker Chanathip Songkrasin, went on the attack from the start.
They dominated for long periods but failed to break the Philippines' solid defence with their goalkeeper Kevin Mendoza in fine form.
The Thais broke the deadlock after 26 minutes when Theerathon Bunmathan's cross perfectly found Teerasil who gave Mendoza no chance.
Thailand were still the better side early in the second half but it was the Philippines who found the back of the net.
Thailand defender Manuel Tom Bihr's poor clearance allowed Reichelt to make it 1-1 in the 57th minute.
The equaliser helped boost the Philippines' confidence as they came close to scoring on a couple of occasions.
In the 78th minute, Thailand were awarded a penalty when Amani Aguinaldo tripped Thitiphan Puangchan in the area and Teerasil made no mistake from the spot.
Teerasil could have bagged a hat-trick but Mendoza made two brilliant saves to deny him.
Defending champions Vietnam are in Group B with Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos and Cambodia.
The top two teams in each group advance to the semi-finals with the final scheduled for Jan 1.
Thailand are the most successful side in the tournament with five titles followed by Singapore with four.
Desperate to win back the title, Thailand manager Nualphan Lamsam has promised to give the team 20 million baht in bonus if they are crowned champions.
The winners will also get about 10 million baht in prize money.