Sarawut sinks Singapore
War Elephants' late winner means Sundram's men face must-win game on Friday
(Sarawut Masuk 89)
One of the smallest men on the pitch brought half the Singapore players to their knees last night.
With just 90 seconds to go in their AFF Suzuki Cup Group A match here last night, the appropriately named Thai substitute Sarawut Masuk ("masuk" is "enter" in Malay) squeezed in between Singapore defender Madhu Mohana and his goalkeeper Hassan Sunny to flick home a header and send his side through to the semi-finals after the 1-0 victory.
Masuk stands at just 1.7m, with Madhu 1.83m and Hassan 1.85m.
MISSING THE EDGE: Singapore striker Khairul Amri lamenting a missed chance but it was Thailand's Sarawut Masuk (above, on the ground) who didn't miss for Thailand. PHOTO: ST
The Lions, who had carried out coach V Sundramoorthy's game plan almost perfectly up to that point, collapsed to the turf at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue.
The 51-year-old coach had set his team out to sit deep in their defensive third, and have the front five players break forward on the counter-attack.
Three times, Singapore pierced the Thai backline in the second half.
But only once did they get the ball on target, and even then, Shakir Hamzah's shot was beaten clear by Thai No. 1 Kawin Thamsatchanan.
Arguably Singapore's best chance of the game fell to fullback Juma'at Jantan.
Deployed as a right winger, the 32-year-old could not sort his feet out in time and his shot eventually went wide.
Sundram, who walked into the post-match press conference wearing a wry smile, said: "We should have scored with the breaks, if only we had got the right shot.
"Juma'at had a great chance and then Izzdin (Shafiq) was in great position, and so was Shakir... and it would have been a different game if we scored.
"But I'm very proud of boys, they got stuck in and played to the game plan. We need to move on, we cannot change anything now."
The Lions now head into their last game against Indonesia on Friday desperate for a win and possibly a place in the last four, if the Philippines fail to beat Thailand in matches played concurrently.
Last night's performance has given Sundram's men hope, at least.
Said defender Daniel Bennett: "We looked more like scoring than Thailand.
"We had three or four chances in the second half, and with a little bit more composure, we would have won.
"You can say we played a defensive game, but who had the chances?
"This is how we set up and we really could have pulled it off.
"Anyway, a draw or loss today, it would be similar because we would go into the last game needing to win.
"But I think we showed tonight we can play."
It was clear from the first whistle that Singapore were out frustrate the talented Thais, who had beaten Indonesia 4-2 in their first match last Saturday.
Juma'at and Faris Ramli, Singapore's wide midfielders, acted as auxiliary fullbacks when their team were defending.
While they dominated possession, the Thais' first clear chance came in the 40th minute when the outrageously skilful Chanathip Songkrasin picked out captain Teerasil Dangda at the backpost, only for the former Almeria striker to head wide from barely five metres.
Singapore continued to frustrate their opponents in the second half, and in the 63rd minute, Juma'at burst through after a great pick-out by Khairul Amri, but he could not get a shot away.
In the 84th minute, defensive midfielder Izzdin Shafiq found himself in almost the exact same situation as Juma'at, but his shot on his weaker left foot was blocked.
The misses proved costly as, just five minutes later, Sarawut got on the end of Teerathon Bunmathan's cross from the right to sink the Lions.
Juma'at told The New Paper: "I feel so sorry for the team I could not convert.
"If I scored, it would be a different story... I'm not a natural scorer, but I will just continue to give my best for the team."
Added skipper Hariss Harun: "There were a lot of positives tonight, but then again, no goals.
"We need to add that to our game in the match against Indonesia.
"We still have a chance (to qualify for the last four) and we want to go out and get the job done."
Singapore now own a wretched record of just four goals in 10 international games since Sundram took over in late May.
The coach has been criticised in some quarters for the team's cautious approach, but he was defiant when asked if he regretted how he set his team up last night.
"I would do the same, given another chance," he said.
"We were one minute and 30 seconds away from snatching a draw against Thailand. You can check the record books when we last did that."
There were a lot of positives tonight, but then again, no goals. We still have a chance (to qualify for the last four) and we want to go out and get the job done.
— Singapore skipper Hariss Harun
TEAMS & PLAYERS' RATINGS
- THAILAND: Kawin Thamsatchanan 6.5, Tristan Do 7, Tanaboon Kesarat 6, Koravit Namwiset 6, Teerathon Bunmathan 6.5, Pokklaw Anan 6.5 (Charyl Chappuis 86), Sarach Yooyen 6, Rungrath Poomchanteuk 6 (Adison Promrak 63), Chanathip Songkrasin 7, Siroch Chatthong 7 (Sarawut Masuk 63), Teerasil Dangda 6.
- SINGAPORE: Hassan Sunny 6.5, Faritz Hameed 6, Madhu Mohana 7, Daniel Bennett 7, Shakir Hamzah 7, M Anumanthan 6.5 (Shahril Ishak 91), Faris Ramli 6, Safuwan Baharudin 6.5 (Izzdin Shafiq 77), Hariss Harun 6.5, Juma'at Jantan 6.5 (Yasir Hanapi 81), Khairul Amri 7.
- Attendance: 359
- Referee: Rowan Arumughan (India) 4.5/10
- Rating: 4/10
TNP MAN OF THE MATCH