Thailand had to overcome stern resistance from the Philippines at the MP Selayang Stadium on Tuesday to record a 2-0 win in Group B of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
First-half goals from Montree Promsawat and Sittichok Kannoo were enough to hand the Thais maximum points, tentatively sending them top ahead of Group B’s other matches later on Tuesday.
The scoreline, however, failed to reflect how a brave Philippines side gave their more-illustrious opponents a fair few scares and, had they been more clinical, it could have been far different story.
Still, the result does mean that any faint hopes the Filipinos had of qualifying for the semi-finals have now been extinguished.
— FOX Sports PH (@FOXSports_PH) August 22, 2017
On the other hand, despite the victory, Thailand are yet to fully win over all their critics, many of which who claim the class of 2017 are nowhere up to standard for a country with a record 15 gold medals in the cabinet.
They entered their latest tie as huge favourites and were expected to produce a dominant display, yet it was their opponents who came close to breaking the deadlock in the opening exchanges.
Dylan de Bruycker was first to threaten for the Philippines after eight minutes when he found space inside the box and slid a dangerous ball across the face of goal, but no one was on hand to finish it off.
Then, five minutes before the half-hour mark, a miskick by Shinniphat Lee-Oh allowed Javier Gayoso to nip in and advance on goal, only for his effort to come back off the post having beaten Nont Muangngam.
The couple of close shaves did appear to wake the Thais up from their slumber and they punished the Philippines for their profligacy just three minutes later.
Montree’s clever late run inside the area went unnoticed by the entire opposition defence, and he made no mistake in nodding Sasalak Haiprakhon’s delivery past Ray Joseph Joyel to open the scoring.
And, in injury-time at the end of the first half, the clinical Thais doubled their advantage.
There appeared to be little danger when Kevin Deeromram floated a cross in from the left, but Sittichok did well to adjust his body and send a sweetly-struck left-footed volley into the back of the net.
By the time the Filipinos came out after the break, they were having difficulties hiding their dejection and rightly so, for they had shown plenty of endeavour only to go unrewarded.
Strangely enough, Thailand did not look particularly interested in seizing the initiative in an attempt to record a handsome victory.
Apart from a couple of half-hearted efforts at goal, the second 45 degenerated into a tepid affair as the War Elephants held out for an important, yet uninspiring, victory.
The result means that – for a few hours, at least – they are top of Group B, a point above Vietnam and three ahead of Indonesia, with both sides meeting in a pivotal encounter on Tuesday evening.
PHILIPPINES: Ray Joseph Joyel, Jordan Jarvis (Richard Talaroc Jr. 54’), Junell Bautista, Christian Lapas, Julian Clarino, Nimrod Balabat, Joshua Grommen, Dimitri Limbo (Roberto Corsame Jr. 74’), Kouichi Belgira, Dylan de Bruycker (Jeremiah Borlongan 80’), Javier Gayoso.
THAILAND: Nont Muangngam, Peerawat Akkatham (Saringkarn Promsupa 46’), Shinniphat Lee-Oh, Worawut Namvech, Kevin Deeromram, Nopphon Ponkam, Chaowat Veerachat (6), Montree Promsawat, Nattawut Sombatyotha (Phitiwat Sukjitthammakul 68’), Sasalak Haiprakhon, Sittichok Kannoo (Picha U-Tra 61’).