Thailand, the reigning champions, are just a win away from booking their place in the semifinals after ditching Malaysia 6-1 in a Group A game at the Bangkok Arena here today.
The result against Malaysia was their second victory and they only need to defeat Bruneitomorrow to secure their place in the semifinals of the AFF Futsal Championship here.
Despite the loss, Malaysia still have a chance of making the cut, provided they defeat Timor Leste and Singapore in their remaining games.
Thailand’s win today vaults them from third to the top of the standings with six points. Timor Leste, also with six points, are second on an inferior goal difference with Malaysia running third.
Tonight, in front of a near capacity crowd of 10,000, the Thais started cautiously. In fact, it was the Malaysians who began aggressively, taking the fight to their hosts.
Malaysia had at least two good shots from Mohd Khairul Effendy Mohd Bahrin and Akmarulnizam Mohd Idris in the sixth and ninth minutes.
Thailand, whose clear attempts from skipper Kritsada Wongkaeo and Jetsada Chudech were saved by Malaysia keeper Azrul Hadee Mohd Taufiq, continued to pressure and finally broke the deadlock in the 11th minute.
As the defence crowded the box, Piyapan Ratana slammed a low shot through for the opening goal.
Piyapan was in the thick of action again a few minutes later. His sizzling shot from the left was stopped by Azrul Hadee only to fall in the path of Jetsada who quickly rammed it in.
In the 16th minute, Chaivit Jamgrajang spotted an opening and took his chance to give the fans another chance to celebrate before the break.
Malaysia tried to put the brakes on their rivals and may have succeeded to a certain level.
Instead of allowing them to run riot and reel in the goals, the Malaysians limited their chances, eventually conceding three more through Sorasak Phoonjungreed (23rd), Nattavut Madyalan (35th) and Kritsada (37th). In the dying minutes, Mohd Khairul finally cracked the Thai defence to put the final score at 6-1.
This evening, Brunei turned in a solid performance to surprise Singapore 2-1 in a Group A match here today.
It was Brunei’s first win here after going down to Malaysia 9-1 yesterday. Singapore snatched the lead in the 12th minute through Mohamed Farhan Mohamed Farook.
Brunei however charged back in the second half and found the equaliser after a superb strike from Faiz Hasnan in the 23rd minute. Brunei were determined for more and kept up the pressure. And finally, three minutes from time, Faiz hit a second to lead Brunei to success.
In matches earlier this afternoon, Australia whipped the Philippines 13-0 to grab the top spot in Group B and in the process move a step closer to securing a semifinal slot.
The Aussies replaced overnight leaders Vietnam who had edged Myanmar 2-1 in another match here today. Vietnam could have retained the lead but they did not score enough goals to ensure a better goal difference. Both Australia and Vietnam have six points each from as many victories and are well positioned to make the semifinal cut.
For the record, the four semifinalists in the AFF Futsal will qualify for the Asian Futsal Championships to be held in Uzbekistan next year.
Group B: Australia bt Philippines 13-0, Vietnam bt Myanmar 2-1
Group A: Brunei bt Singapore 2-1, Thailand bt Malaysia 6-1
Group B: Philippines vs Vietnam (11.30am), Laos vs Australia (2pm)
Group A: Malaysia vs Timor Leste (4.30pm), Brunei vs Thailand (7pm)
Group B: Myanmar vs Laos (11.30am), Vietnam vs Australia (2pm)
Group A: Singapore vs Malaysia (4.30pm), Thailand vs Timor Leste (7pm)
Note: In case of same points, the head-to-head battle between the two teams will be used