MANILA • Defending champions Thailand may have preserved their 20-year unbeaten record in Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup opening games, but Indonesia provided clues on how the mighty War Elephants can come undone.
On a rain-soaked pitch at the Philippines Sports Stadium in Bocaue, a town just outside Manila, the Thais wobbled to a 4-2 win, needing late goals to bring down the hard-running Garudas.
"Because of carelessness," said Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang. "Indonesia got two goals because of their crosses. We have to correct this."
The early stages of the game suggested a stroll in the park for Thailand. Just four minutes had elapsed when midfielder Peerapat Notchaiya smashed a loose ball into the net.
Their lead was doubled in the 18th minute when attacking midfielder Chanathip Songkrasin delivered from the left for captain Teerasil Dangda to stab home.
But Indonesian striker Boas Salossa pulled one back with a downward header in the 54th minute. Three minutes later, Lerby Eliandry Baru repeated the act with a looping header for the equaliser.
Both times, all three centre-backs in Thailand's defence were guilty of ball-watching.
The howlers prompted Kawin Thamsatchanan to yell in furious recrimination at his defence. But the goalkeeper later told The Sunday Times: "It was not just the defence, I was very angry with myself for not stopping those goals.
"This was a hard game, Indonesia ran a lot and you could see they really wanted to beat us. We have to work together to correct these mistakes."
Still, Thailand wriggled out of a sticky ending with Sarach Yooyen, a midfielder with the composure to carve out openings under pressure.
The 24-year-old, who captained the Under-23s to SEA Games glory last year, calmly cushioned a pass for Teerasil to thump home in the 77th minute. In stoppage time, Sarach dribbled down the left before crossing for the skipper to complete his hat-trick.
"Indonesia really wanted to win," said Kiatisuk. "We are a little bit lucky to get a third goal to finish the game. Maybe we are tired but we have teamwork and team spirit that made us come back to win.
"But now, others have seen this game and they will know how to play us."
The tactician was correct. For seated in the stands was a certain V. Sundramoorthy. The Lions meet the War Elephants on Tuesday.
Wang Meng Meng