Thailand were spared blushes in a 4-2 win over a surprisingly challenging Indonesia in the opening match of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2016.
A poor clearance by Rudolof Basna saw Indonesia goalkeeper Kurnia Hermansyah come off his line and the ball make its way to Peerapat Notechaiya, who punished his opponents with a low volley that crossed into the far corner in the fourth minute.
The War Elephants were denied a second goal just minutes later when captain Teerasil Dangda’s close-range shot following a corner kick clanged off the crossbar.
Thailand continued to pass around their opponents with ease as heavy rains began to fall at the Philippine Sports Stadium.
A chance in the 19th minute went wanting for Indonesia as Andik Vermansyah failed to do much with a cross, instead sending it wide. Moments later, Boas Solossa’s shot from the edge of the penalty area bounced strangely, forcing a fingertip save by goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan.
Dangda finally found his first goal of the match in the 36th minute when Chanatip Songkrasin’s close-range cross with mishandled by three Indonesian defenders, leaving the captain with little more to do than to tap the ball into the net.
Indonesia, who continued to pressure the Thai goal throughout the rest of the first half, cut the deficit in half in the 53rd minute when Rizal Ripora’s cross was headed in by the captain Boas.
The reinvigorated Garuda tied it up just three minutes thanks to Lerby Baru, whose header from Beny Wahyudi’d long-distance service cross left Kawin befuddled on his line.
Thailand recaptured the lead in the 79th minute with Dangda slotting home his second of the day from the top of the penalty area after he was supplied by Sarach Yooyen. He would go on to complete his hat trick late in stoppage time, stuffing Yooyen’s cross in from close range and sealing full points for the defending champions.