Thailand captured their seventh ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Cup title after edging Vietnam 1-0 in the return leg final at the Thammasat Stadium in Pathum Thani last night for a 3-2 aggregate win.
The War Elephants, under the guidance of coach Alexandre Polking, are the most successful team in the history of the AFF Cup, having also won it in 1996, 2000, 2002, 2014, 2016 and 2020.
After both teams drew 2-2 in the first leg at the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi on Friday (Jan 13), skipper Theerathon Bunmathan netted the only goal in last night’s match with a powerful right shot from outside the box in the 24th minute after receiving a pass from Adisak Kraisorn.
The goal only added to the intensity of the match and forced Vietnam’s South Korean coach Park Hang Seo to make an early substitution by bringing on Nguyen Quang Hai for Nguyen Tuan Ahn in the 36th minute.
Hang Seo also brought on Pham Tuan Hai and Do Duy Manh early in the second half to replace Phan Van Duc and Bui Hoang Viet Anh as they tried to get the equaliser but the Thai defenders played superbly in front of their home fans.
Striker Nguyen Tien Linh missed a good chance to bag the equaliser in the 70th minute when his effort from the left side was saved by Thai goalkeeper Kampon Phatomakkakul before the game was constantly disrupted by injuries to several players.
Vietnam, though never gave up and had two good chances – a header by Nguyen Thanh Chung that sailed wide in the 81st minute and a powerful drive by Quang Hai that flew over the bar in injury time.
Thailand, who eliminated Malaysia in the semi-finals, were down to 10 men in the final seconds when Peeradol Chamrasamee was sent off for a second yellow card offence, but they managed to hold on for victory.
Gianni Infantino, the president of world football governing body FIFA, was also present to watch the final.
For the record, the second most successful team after Thailand are Singapore with four titles, followed by Vietnam (two) and Malaysia (one in 2010). — BERNAMA