Thailand crowned ASEAN football champs for record fifth time

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A vocal and partisan crowd of 50,000 plus at the Raja­mangala Stadium in Bangkok witnessed a thrilling Suzuki Cup second leg decider on the evening of Saturday Dec. 17 as Thailand wiped out a 2-1 deficit from the first leg three days earlier to secure a record fifth title in the competition.  Thailand also won the ASEAN based tournament in 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2014.

Thailand national football team players celebrate with the trophy after they beat Indonesia in the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup, Saturday, Dec. 17, in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)
Thailand national football team players celebrate with the trophy after they beat Indonesia in the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup, Saturday, Dec. 17, in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)

Rookie international striker Sirod Chatthong was the hero of the hour, scoring a brace of goals either side of half time to take Thailand to first place in the list of all time winners, one ahead of Singapore.

The Thai side had never managed to overcome a first-leg deficit in a final before so history was against them, but combining a mixture of flair and carefree attacking football they tore into their Indonesian opponents, who thanks to some resolute defending managed to hold on to their slim one goal advantage until just before half time.

The breakthrough for Thailand came in the 37th minute when Indonesian defender Fachruddin Aryanto’s poor clearance hit Sirod and deflected the ball into the visitors’ goal, tying the contest at 2-2.

With Thailand already having an away goal to their advantage they could have been forgiven for playing more conservatively in the second half, but coach Kiatisak was determined that his team win the tie outright and put on a show for the thousands in attendance and millions watching at home.

“We wanted to win the title for the fans but also as a tribute to King Rama IX,” an emotional Kiatisak said later.

The decisive goal came just two minutes after the interval as 23-year old Sirod, who plies his trade in the second tier of Thai football with Ubon UMT United, curled in a beautiful effort from the edge of the area to give goalkeeper Kurnia Meiga no chance.

Thailand should have extended their lead soon after, when Meiga brought down Sirod with a cynical foul in the area, but striker Teerasil fluffed the resultant penalty-kick and allowed the Indonesian keeper to make an easy save.

Striker Sirod Chatthong (2nd right) scores the winning goal for Thailand against Indonesia at the Rajamagala Stadium in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)
Striker Sirod Chatthong (2nd right) scores the winning goal for Thailand against Indonesia at the Rajamagala Stadium in Bangkok. (AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)

There were some nervous moments in the final 10 minutes as the visitors pushed forward in search on the one goal that would have taken the match into extra time, but the Thai team could not be denied on this occasion as they repelled all that Indonesia could throw at them.

As the frustration of another final defeat filtered through the visiting team, they were reduced to 10 men in the final minute of action when defender Muhammad Lestaluhu was sent off for petulantly kicking the ball at the Thai dugout.

Thailand midfielder Chana­thip Songkrasin was later named the most valuable player of the tournament.