Widely considered the area’s greatest footballer, five-time champions Thailand’s most respected gem of their pack of diamonds – captain Chanathip Songkrasin – had been used sparingly at this AFF Suzuki Cup.
Yesterday, in entrance of seven,365 followers on the National Stadium, the diminutive 1.58m star was at his glittering greatest, scoring a brace within the 2-0 win over Vietnam within the semi-final, first leg of the Asean Football Federation Championship.
The solely blot for the 28-year-old, who was named Man of the Match, was his Eighty fifth-minute penalty miss that denied him his first-ever hat-trick for Thailand.
In the Thais’ 4 group matches, Chanathip, who performs in Japan for Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, had featured for less than 142 minutes – within the 4-0 and 2-1 wins over Myanmar and the Philippines respectively.
And with Vietnam but to concede a purpose on the event, Thailand coach Alexandre Polking banked on his playmaker, who was named greatest participant on the 2014 and 2016 Suzuki Cups.
And he delivered.
“I’m happy to score the goals that have helped us to get the win. But it’s all because of the team and down to the belief the coach has in us. We are only halfway through,” stated Chanathip, who additionally apologised for his penalty miss.
This was defending champions Vietnam’s first loss to Asean opponents underneath South Korean coach Park Hang-seo. In the 20 earlier matches, they’d 15 wins and 5 attracts towards regional rivals.
Polking stated his facet knew about this unbeaten report, including: “It was important to break that run and for the players to know that it could be done. But there is another 90 minutes (to come).”
In a high-quality sport between two prime sides, it was ironic that the opener arrived after a sequence of comedic errors within the 14th minute.
After a free kick simply outdoors the Thailand field was cleared, the War Elephants broke on the counter.