Azkals bow to Thais in Suzuki Cup opener

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Photo from AFF Suzuki Cup website.

BANGKOK – Paul Mulders scored for the first time for the Philippines, but it wasn’t enough as Thailand hammered out a 2-1 victory Saturday night at the start of the AFF Suzuki Cup at the Rajamangala Stadium here.

Turning up their attack into a higher gear, the Thais struck twice in the space of three minutes late in the first half, before Mulders pulled a goal back in the 77th minute.

But the Azkals’ fightback fell short on a rainy night in the Thai capital as the War Elephants kept possession to preserve the victory that boosted them to top spot of Group A.

Vietnam and Myanmar shared the spoils in the earlier match, after playing to a 1-1 draw, giving them a point each.

The Thais put the Filipinos on the backfoot for long periods in the first half. Making things worse for the Azkals was playing one man short for about 10 minutes in the first 20 as Phil Younghusband got treatment because of a head injury.

Overall, though, the Philippines offered little attacking threat and except for Younghusband racing clear only Chonlatit Jantakam to make a crucial tackle in nine minutes into the match.

It didn’t take long for Thailand to settle into the match and find the goal that lifted the spirits of the homecrowd who braved the downpour.

Jakkapan Pornsai opened the scoring from close range in the 39th minute, after some good linkup play by Teerasil Dangda and Theerathon Bunmathan on the right flank.

Bunmathan, whose deflected effort led to a corner in the earlier play, issued the low cross for Pornsai to finish after a neat 1-2 with Dangda.

Combining brilliantly with Dangda and Datsakorn Thonglao, Anucha Kitpongsri finished off a fine team move, faking Ray Jonsson and rounding out Azkals keeper Ed Sacapano.

The Azkals got a foothold of the game in the second half with coach Michael Weiss bringing in Marwin Angeles and Patrick Reichelt, who continued his good run of form.

It was Reichelt who beat his defender on the right and issued the cutback for Mulders to finish with his left foot.

Weiss was ejected from the touchline by Japanese referee Sato Ryuji after he appeared to have thrown the ball at the injured Kitpongsri as play was stopped in the 80th minute.

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