Sunday, December 23, 2012

End of Season Recess

Now that the AFF Suzuki Cup has drawn to a close, it's time for me to take a break. I won't be reporting on any upcoming glamour friendlies or circling transfer rumours, so I'll be back when the first sign of significant action arises for the 2013 season.

Meanwhile, I'd like to thank the readers who have kept following this blog since it started back in May 2011. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Singapore Lift AFF Suzuki Cup

Thailand 1-0 Singapore (Agg 2-3)

Singapore collected their fourth AFF Cup despite losing the second leg of the final 1-0 to Thailand. Baiakki's 90th minute goal in the first leg for Singapore proved to be the decisive goal as Singapore won the final 3-2 on aggregate.
Thailand dominated for long periods in this game but only had one goal to show for their efforts. Jakkaphan had hit the bar before Kirati was left unmarked to bullet home a header from Theerathorn's corner in first half injury time.
After the interval, Kirati blasted one over the bar and substitutes Pipob and Apipoo came close. However, Singapore defended ruggedly and denied the Thais that all important second goal.
The victory for Singapore marked the end of Radojko Avramovic's 9 year coaching stint. Shairul Ishak won the MVP award while a dejected Teerasil collected the Golden Boot with 5 goals.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

AFF Suzuki Cup Final 1st Leg

Singapore 3-1 Thailand

It's advantage to Singapore as the hungrier looking Lions took a deserved 3-1 lead on the artificial pitch at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
The opening exchanges saw Singapore take the game to Thailand and they took the lead on 9 minutes from a penalty kick. Piyapon clumsily manhandled Duric conceding a cheap spot kick which Fahrudin converted despite having to retake it.
Singapore continued to hold the upper hand with Thailand looking second best for most of the first half.
The Thais did improve after the interval and were rewarded on 59 minutes when Adul finished a move created by Teerasil.
The joy was shortly lived as Kharil Amri was allowed too much space to turn in the box to restore the Lions lead two minutes later. Jakkaphan then rattled the crossbar with a free kick shortly afterwards, but it was Singapore who had the last laugh on 90 minutes when Baihakki blasted the ball into the roof of the net after Thailand failed to clear a corner.
I won't argue that Singapore didn't deserve their 3-1 first leg lead. I will say that the second leg will be a different ball game as it will played in front of a passionate Thai crowd on real grass. You just have to wonder if that crucial third goal for Singapore will prove to be the decisive goal.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

AFF Cup Semi Final Results

Thailand 2-0 Malaysia (Agg 3-1)

Two second half goals via Teerasil and Theerathorn helped Thailand advance to the AFF Final as they beat 10 man Malaysia 2-0 on the night and 3-1 over two legs.
Arguably, the turning point of the match came when Malaysia's Fadhli was harshly given a second yellow card after himself and Datsakorn exchanged glances at each other shortly before half time!!
Teerasil had missed a great chance in the first half after Datsakorn had set him free, but the Muangthong striker made amends on the hour when sloppy defending following a Panupong header allowed him a clear run on goal to open the scoring.
Five minutes later the tie was put to bed after a Jakkaphan free kick was weakly parried by the Malaysian keeper for Theeratorn to rifle in the rebound with his left foot.
Teerasil should have added a third and Sompong hit the crossbar before Kawin was finally called into action with a couple of sprightly saves in the last 10 minutes.
Overall, I thought Thailand deserved to progress to the final, although if I were a Malaysian fan I'd be directing my angst towards the match officials as they didn't do them any favors in the second leg.

Singapore 1-0 Philippines (Agg 1-0)

A 19th minute goal from Khairul Amri was the only goal of the contest as Singapore edged out the Azkals 1-0 on aggregate.The Lions took the game to Philippines and were rewarded on 19 minutes when a quickly taken free kick caught the Pinoy defence napping, leaving Khairul Amri a free strike from 25 yards out to open the scoring.
Singapore couldn't find that all important second goal to kill the contest but in reality the Azkal street fighting spirit never emerged as they departed the tournament with barely a whimper.

The first leg of the final will take place in Singapore next Wednesday with the return being played in Bangkok on Saturday 22nd December.

Monday, December 10, 2012

AFF Suzuki Cup Semi Finals

Malaysia 1-1 Thailand
It ended honours even in front of an estimated 90,000 spectators at the Bukit Jalil Stadium. Norshahrul opened the scoring shortly after the interval when he headed home Mahalli Jasuli's cross. With 11 minutes left on the clock, Thailand salvaged a draw when Teerasil rose majestically to head home. Malaysia could have snatched a late winner but they were denied by a great reflex save from Kawin, or the Flying Kawin as he's referred to by the ESPN commentry team. Winnie Schafer was sent to the stand for a bout of feet stomping shortly after Thailand's goal but overall it was a satisfactory night for the national side. The sides will battle again at the Supachalasai on Thursday evening.

Philippines 0-0 Singapore

There wasn't much to get excited about as the first leg ended 0-0. Singapore controled the contest but they failed to find that elusive away goal. The Philippines would have been disappointed with their performance yet they'll be pleased that they are still very much in the contest. With away goals counting double, one goal on the artificial Jalan Besar pitch on Wednesday evening could be enough for the Azkals to progress to the final.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Div 2 Playoffs Final Round Review

Group A 

Pattani 0-1 Rayong Utd
Paknampo NSRU 3-0 Roi Et Utd
Ayutthaya 1-2 Phitsanulok

Rayong United grabbed the second promotion spot on a photo finish as they beat Pattani 1-0. Their head-to-head record, number of wins and goal difference were all equal to Phitsanulok's. It came down to 13 goals scored against 10 to separate the duo.
In all reality, Rayong Utd can thank the self implosion of Roi Et as they capitulated losing 3-0 at Paknampo NSRU. A goal from Tasong shortly after half time opened the scoring and two late goals from Permyot rubbed salt in the Roi Et wounds as the White Squirrels lost 3-0.
Phitsanulok earned an impressive 2-1 win at Ayutthaya but it wasn't enough to prevent Rayong United joining Ayutthaya in Division 1 next term.

Final standings:  Ayutthaya 20, Rayong Utd 14, Phitsanulok 14, Roi Et Utd 13, Pattani 10, Paknampo NSRU 8

Group B 

Trat 2-1 Chiang Mai FC
Thai Honda 4-3 Trang
Rayong FC 2-2 Sisaket Utd

A point turned out to be enough for Rayong FC as they finished runners-up to Trat. It was an eventful climax to the season at Rayong with four goals and three sending offs. Pairote headed the hosts in front before Warawut curled one in on the stroke of half time to level. Nattawut then restored the lead for Rayong on the 73rd minute. Sisaket Utd were reduced to 10 men when Homduang received a second yellow and he was quickly joined in the bath tub by the Rayong duo of Pongsatorn and Nattawut. Sisaket did pull a goal back in the 97th minute to snatch a draw but there was to be no dramatic late fightback as Rayong held on for the vital point.
Chiang Mai would have been cursing their luck as they could have earned promotion had they won at Trat. It wasn't to be their day as Trat won 2-1. Misoslav Toth gobbled up an early rebound to put the White Elephants in front and the lead was doubled on the half hour when Toth set up Raymond to score. Chiang Mai were unfortunate to have a goal chalked off close to half time as it could have changed the momentum of the second half. The Lanna Tigers did eventually find the back of the net but Issac Amoah's 87th minute goal was nothing more than a consolation strike.
The match that appeared to be deadwood before kick off proved to be otherwise as Thai Honda staged a sensational comeback to beat Trang 4-3. All seven goals were scored in the same goal with Nopparat netting the late winner.

Final Standings: Trat 22 pts, Rayong FC 16, Chiang Mai FC 15, Sisaket Utd 15, Thai Honda 8, Trang 6

Friday, December 7, 2012

AFF Suzuki Cup Semi Finals Preview

Malaysia v Thailand (Sun 9 Dec, Bukit Jalil Stadium, KL)
Thailand v Malaysia (Thur 13 Dec, Supachalasai)

A full house is expected at the Bukit Jalil Stadium as current holders Malaysia take on cup favorites Thailand. The Tigers got off to a disastrous start in the group stages when they were ambushed 3-0 by Singapore in their own backyard. Since then they've regained their composure with victories over Laos and Indonesia. Malaysia will be hoping that the momentum built from those two victories carries over for their all important home clash with Thailand. Safee Sali was the top scorer in the 2010 tournament and has been identified by Winnie Schafer as their main attacking threat - although reports indicate that he may miss the match due to a thigh strain.

For Thailand, confidence is booming after they eased their way through the group stages with three wins. Provided that there are no fresh injuries, I'd imagine that Schafer will revert to his original starting 11 with the Muangthong 7 accompanied by Cholratit, Anucha, Adul and Theerathon. This game is Thailand's biggest test since their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign petered out around this time last year. A draw in KL may well be a suitable outcome for the cautious minded, but I believe Thailand can go to Malaysia and get that crucial first leg lead. From what I've seen through my rose-tinted glasses, Thailand are the best side in the tournament with Teerasil currently being the star player in the ASEAN region.

Philippines v Singapore (Sat 8 Dec, Rizal Memorial Stadium, Manila)

Singapore v Philippines (Wed 12 Dec, Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore)

Back in 2010, qualifying for the semi finals of the AFF Cup was regarded as a major achievement for the Azkals. This time though, expectation levels have risen with the prospect of their first major AFF final within touching distance. The Philippines have already beaten Singapore twice this year and will be looking towards key players like Phil Younghusband, Jason de Jong and the towering Angel Guirado to tame the Singapore Lions once again. The Azkals were boosted with the news that some of their European based players have been released for the Last 4 by their respective clubs.

Singapore on the other hand finished top of Group B, but were not firing on all cylinders when the beat Laos 4-3 last time out. The Lions were trailing 2-0 to the underdogs before Singapore coach Raddy Avramovich made two first half tactical substitutions. The Singapore stalwart, Daniel Bennett, was one of the players hooked which lead to Avramovich coming out to publicly defend the player for his poor showing. The coach has also remained faithful to 42 year old Aleksander Duric despite having other younger attackers at his disposal. The 6ft 4in Bosnain born striker's inclusion splits opinion amongst Singapore fans while he is most remembered by Thai football followers as the man who scored the winning goal three years ago when Singapore beat Thailand 1-0 in the qualifying round for the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Div 2 Playoffs - Final Round Preview

Group A - Sunday

Pattani v Rayong Utd
Paknampo NSRU v Roi Et Utd
Ayutthaya v Phitsanulok

The final round of the group stages is upon us with one remaining side from a trio of candidates bidding to join Ayutthaya in the second tier of Thai football in 2013.
Roi Et Utd still hold the edge on 13 points with Phitsanulok and Rayong Utd lingering two points behind them. All three clubs hit the road which doesn't bode well as between them only Roi Et have one away win to their name in the group stages with the other two yet to register three points from their travels.
A win for Roi Et would kill all the possible permutations but a draw for them and victories for the other two would leave them all on 14 points. As far as head-to heads go, Roi Et have a better H2H over Rayong Utd but a worse one against Phitsanulok. Rayong Utd and Phitsanulok would tie as both games ended in 1-0 home wins. I believe it's then decided by number of wins, goals scored and then goal difference (don't quote me though).

Group B - Saturday

Trat v Chiang Mai FC
Thai Honda v Trang
Rayong FC v Sisaket Utd

Similar to Group A, there are three sides vying for that all important second promotion place. The lucky winners of the golden ticket will join Trat in Division 1 next year.
The Top 4 clash this Saturday with Trat hosting Chiang Mai FC while Rayong FC welcome Sisaket Utd.
With Rayong and Chaing Mai tied on 15 points, and Sisaket one behind on 14, the possible scenarios are listed below:
  • A win for Rayong FC over Sisaket Utd would guarantee promotion regardless of the Chiang Mai scoreline as the Wild Horses have a superior head-to-head record
  • A draw would also be sufficient for Rayong FC provided Chiang Mai don't beat Trat
  • Only a win will do for Chiang Mai coupled with Rayong not winning
  • Sisaket Utd need to beat Rayong and hope Chiang Mai don't win at Trat

Monday, December 3, 2012

Div 2 Playoffs Round 9 Review

Group A 

Rayong United 3-2 Paknampo NSRU
Ayutthaya 3-0 Pattani
Phitsanulok 2-0 Roi Et Utd

Ayutthaya confirmed themselves as Group A champions as the comfortably beat Pattani 3-0. The defeat for the southerners means they can start preparing for another season of regional league football in 2013. The Ancient Warriors were gifted an own goal in the 11th minute. Roland Guina was then red carded on 30 minutes for Pattani before second half goals from Natthaphat and Antonio Vega rounded off an untroubled afternoon for Ayutthaya.
Roi Et United blew their chance to claim the second promotion berth as they were downed 2-0 at Phitsanulok. Somlak scored a fine individual goal and Weerawut's looping header completed the 2-0 scoreline. Roi Et's misery was complete when Davidson was sent off towards the end of the match. Roi Et still have their fate in their own hands but they'll be nervously looking over their shoulders with Phitsanulok and Rayong Utd only two points behind them.
It was looking bleak for the Elephant Warriors as they were trailing NSRU 2-1 at half time. However an own goal drew Rayong Utd level, and with four minutes remaining Yusuki Sato scored from close in to win it 3-2. The only blemish on the comeback for Rayong Utd would be the dismissal of Souleymane for a spot of handbags in injury time.

Group B 

Rayong FC 2-1 Trat
Sisaket Utd 3-0 Trang
Chiang Mai FC 5-0 Thai Honda

It's all so tight for that second promotion place as Rayong FC, Chiang Mai FC and Sisaket Utd all submitted home wins. CM and SU had slightly easier evenings while Rayong had a tough time against first division bound Trat. Two headed goals from their central defender, Walther, ensured that Rayong won 2-1. Sirisak did have a penalty saved by Trat's Arthit, and Natthaphon did score with a long range free kick for Trat, but it was the Blue Family supporters who were celebrating at the end of the match with their first win in six attempts.
Chiang Mai dispatched a weary looking Thai Honda side 5-0. A deflected shot from Chantaphon set Chiang Mai on their way before Aliou Seck scored the second killer goal moments after half time. The floodgates then opened with Toure Ousmane notching a double and Warut adding a fifth goal.
Sisaket Utd also weren't pressed as they beat Trang 3-0. Preecha's first half penalty eased the pressure before Sisaket added two second half goals.
Rayong and Chiang Mai both have 15 points with Sisaket Utd tucked one behind on 14. I'm assuming that head-to-head comes into play if two teams finish level on points, so Rayong FC's better H2H would trump Chiang Mai superior goal difference should they finish level.
Next week the top four clash with Trat hosting Chiang Mai FC and Rayong FC entertaining Sisaket Utd.