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Thais send Azkals crashing



STEPHAN Schrock (left) gets into a shoving match with Kritsada Kaman of Thailand during their AFF Suzuki Cup encounter late Tuesday in Singapore. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF SUZUKI CUP

The national men’s football team was booted out of contention after suffering a 1-2 loss to Thailand in the preliminary round of the AFF Suzuki Cup at the Singapore National Stadium late Wednesday.

A controversial penalty goal from Thai striker Teerasil Dangda in the 78th minute doomed the Azkals’ chances, sending them to their second loss in three games that left them out of the race for a semifinal slot in this prestigious regional football tournament.

Designated head coach Stewart Hall said the dubious spot kick from the Thais spelled the difference and was compounded by their defensive woes throughout the match.

With that, the Azkals’ titles chances had crumbled as they will miss their second Final Four appearance since 2016.

Thailand and Singapore maintained Pool A leadership with three wins apiece while the Philippines was left at the bottom with a 1-2 record together with Myanmar.

The heartbreaking loss also put the Azkals winless in their storied head-to-head matchup with the Southeast Asian powerhouse since 1972.

“Obviously, it was the deciding factor, I’d like to see it a few times. My players are not happy with the decision,” said Hall, whose wards scored a dominant 7-0 victory over Timor Leste the other day.
“From where I looked, it was very innocuous. Up until the penalty, we were well in the game.”

Thai left-back Theerathon Bunmathan took advantage of Patrick Reichelt’s defensive lapse in the 26th minute and fed Teerasil Dangda with a stunning cross past Filipino goalie Kevin Hansen.

Dangda, a superstar striker from BG Pathum United, logged his 18th Suzuki Cup goal, making him the all-time top scorer of the tournament.

Reichelt, however, made up for his previous error and took advantage of Thailand’s poor defensive clearance before firing a thunderous strike in the 57th minute to equalize the match.

But the Thais stepped on the gas in the latter part of the match.

They earned a questionable penalty kick after Azkals defender Amani Aguinaldo made a minimal contact that sent Thitiphan Puangjan into the box.

Hall rued their missed chances, saying that they are not doing well as their captain, Stephan Schrock, will rush back home to Germany for personal reasons.

“Our captain will leave us tomorrow. Schrocky, his wife is pregnant and he had to go home depending on the result of the (Thailand) game,” Hall said, adding the loss and Schrock’s second yellow card of the tournament were major factors in his decision.

“The rest of it, obviously, we want to win the game. We don’t want to demean the quality of (our) game, we want to win it.”