Sarawut Masuk’s late header booked Thailand their spot in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2016 semifinals in a 1-0 win over Singapore on Tuesday evening.
The speedy War Elephants got off to a solid start, pressuring Singaporean goalkeeper Hassan Sunny in the opening minutes with several incursions into the final third.
Singapore defender Faritz Hamid was shown the first yellow card of the match in the 14th minute for his foul on Siroch Chatthong, setting up a free kick deep down the left flank which was eventually cleared.
Khairul Amri received his own card in the 25th minute for his foul on Kornwit Narmwiset, becoming the second of three Singapore players to make it into the referee’s book.
A 29th-minute shot by Rungrath Poomchantuek forced a diving save by Sunny, who appeared to injure his hand on the play though he would stay in the match.
As Thailand continued to pressure, captain Teerasil Dangda’s header off Chanathip Songkrasin’s cross went wide of the far post in the 41st minute, ensuring the teams would remain deadlocked at the interval.
Play was briefly stopped less than two minutes into the second half when Safuwan Baharudin was stretched off the pitch, though he would return to play until the 74th minute.
Another Thai opportunity just after the hour mark went wasted when Rungrath’s effort from the far post went into the side netting. Singapore would respond shortly after, with Juma Jantan breaking into the Thai penalty area before shooting wide.
After 89 minutes of stubborn Singapore defending, the deadlock was broken when Theeratorn Bunmathan’s cross was headed in by substitute Sarawut, to the delight of the small group of Thai supporters in attendance.
The result means that Thailand are guaranteed a top-two finish in Group A, while Singapore will need a win over Indonesia on Friday if they are to avoid a second consecutive group stage exit.