BOCAUE (Philippines) • An 81st-minute strike by Sarawut Masuk yesterday gave Thailand a 1-0 victory over the Philippines and a perfect record heading into the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup.
Thailand finished their Group A campaign with a flourish despite being outplayed for most of the match at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan, outside Manila.
The Philippines managed 13 shots on goal, with seven of them on target. Thailand had nine shots on goal, but made one of their three that hit the target count.
The hosts' goalkeeper Roland Muller put up a good show, making some good saves, except for one lapse, the conversion by Sarawut that proved to be heartbreaking.
With the match headed for a draw, the Thai forward beat the Philippine offside trap and found the bottom left corner.
It was a second consecutive late goal for Sarawut, who came off the bench to score an 89th-minute winner against Singapore.
The Philippines' group-stage exit snaps a streak of three-straight semi-final appearances in the Cup.
Thailand, who are seeking a record fifth AFF Cup victory, will be joined in the semi-finals by Indonesia. The Garudas beat Singapore 2-1 in Group A's other game yesterday.
Coach Kiatisuk Senamuang led Thailand to glory two years ago when they beat Malaysia in the final to lift the trophy for a record-equalling fourth time. Singapore are the other team to have won the tournament four times.
In Group B, Vietnam, who have already punched their semi-final ticket, will play Cambodia, who are still without a point, today at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon.
Malaysia and Myanmar will battle it out for the fourth semi-final spot.