Thailand top Group B after emphatic SEA Games win over Vietnam
Southeast Asian (SEA) Games defending champions Thailand sealed top spot in Group B with an emphatic 3-1 victory over Vietnam at Singapore's Bishan Stadium on Wednesday night.
Choketawee Promrut's team put on a consummate performance with goals from Police United's Pakorn Parmpak, Thitiphan Puangjan from the penalty spot and a third from French-born right-back Tristan Do.
Le Thanh Binh salvaged lost pride with a late strike for the Vietnamese.
It was effectively a dead rubber between teams who had already qualified. But a draw would have seen Vietnam close out the group stage as leaders with Thailand needing a win to go top.
Neither team came out looking to play it safe, as tackles went flying in. Animosity lingered from the senior teams' World Cup qualifier last month, which saw the War Elephants steal a late 1-0 home win.
As predicted, midfield maestros Sarach Yooyen and Nguyen Cong Phuong were left on the bench, but there was still enough talent on either side to influence the outcome of the game.
Four-goal striker Chananan Pombubpha was the main early threat for the Thais when he broke free twice in the 16th and 18th minutes only to be let down by his shooting.
Choketawee Promrut's side took the lead three minutes later, when Chananan's neat one-two with Pakorn gave the latter the easy task of slotting the ball under goalkeeper Pham Van Tien.
It was the same man again on 30 minutes, when Chaowat Veerachart played him through but Pakorn was indecisive and placed his shot straight into the arms of a grateful Pham.
Vietnam almost levelled the game immediately after when they went down the other end and earned a free-kick.
Pham Manh Hung clipped it to the far post, only to see an unmarked Do Duy Manh head the ball over the bar.
Thanh Binh had the best chance of the half, when Tran Phi Son's pinpoint cross found him unmarked right in the middle of the box. But his weak header was easily gathered by Chanin Sae-ear to send Thailand into the break with a 1-0 advantage.
It was the Muangthong combination that almost doubled Thailand's lead in the 51st minute when Chaowat played a beautiful reverse pass. But Chananan's shot cannoned off the left-post before Pham collected it.
The junior War Elephants scored their second goal of the night from Thitiphan in the 63rd minute.
His long ball found Pakorn who was adjudged to have been fouled in the box by Bui Tien Dung. Thitiphan stepped up and converted from the spot to send the Thai crowd into a frenzy.
Thanh Binh thought he was about to pull one back for Vietna with 16 minutes remaining but man-of-the-match Adison Promrak put in a last-ditch sliding tackle to save the day again.
It was down to Tristan Do to kill off Vietnam's hopes of mounting a comeback in the 77th minute when he turned his marker in the area before curling a superb effort into the top corner.
Thanh Binh got a consolation for Toshiya Miura's side in the 90th minute when he turned and volleyed a spectacular effort past Chanin to give the Vietnamese contingent something to cheer about.
With their fifth win signed, sealed and delivered, defending champions Thailand move into a semifinal clash against either Singapore or Indonesia. They've scored 16 goals and conceded only one. Vietnam will take on Myanmar in the other semifinal on Saturday.
Vietnam: Pham Van Tien (GK), Pham Manh Hung (C), Do Duy Manh (Nguyen Minh Tung 61'), Vu Ngoc Thinh, Nguyen Huy Hung (Nguyen Cong Phuong 77'), Le Thanh Binh, Nguyen Van Toan, Tran Phi Son, Nguyen Thanh Hien, Pham Duc Huy, Bui Tien Dung (Ho Ngoc Thang 71')
Thailand: Chanin Sae-ear (GK), Peerapat Notechaiya (Suriya Singmui 45'), Adison Promrak (C), Artit Daosawang, Tristan Do, Chaowat Veerachart, Thitiphan Puangjan, Pinyo Inpinit (Rungrat Phumichantuk 68'), Pakorn Parmpak (Chenrop Samphaodi 79'), Siwakorn Chakkuprasart, Chananan Pombubpha