Thailand beat Philippines as Indonesia and Vietnam draw in SEA Games
The identity of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games semifinal opponents of host nation Malaysia remains uncertain, with three Group B teams vying for the top two places after 10-man Indonesia held Vietnam to a goalless draw while Thailand defeated Philippines on Tuesday.
The Malaysians are expected to seal top spot in Group A when they take on Laos on Wednesday. But they will have to wait until Thursday before learning which of Vietnam, Thailand, or Indonesia will finish second in Group B.
The three teams are separated by just two points, with Thailand and Vietnam to face each other, while Indonesia play Cambodia. If either Thailand or Vietnam win, Indonesia would likely be the team to place Malaysia, while a draw between the Thais and the Vietnamese would see the War Elephants play the Young Tigers -- unless Indonesia win by three goals or more over the Cambodians.
Victories for Vietnam and Indonesia on Thursday would see an early exit for holders and pre-tournament favourites Thailand.
Against the Indonesians, Vietnam were in control early on and a nice move saw Phong Duy strike a low shot just wide from the edge of box.
In the 26th minute, another pacy attack from Vietnam saw Van Toan break down the right before crossing low for Tuan Tai, who just failed to squeeze his effort past Satria Tama.
But against the run of play, Indonesia almost took the lead through Septian David. The winger gathered the ball 25 yards from goal and rifled in a low shot that Vietnam's Bui Tien Dung did well to push wide.
Van Thanh almost put his side ahead on the stroke of half-time, but his looping header from Phong Duy's cross was tipped over by Tama.
A blistering run from Cong Phuong opened up the Indonesians in the 56th minute. However, his angled shot was beaten out by Tama.
And Indonesia went down to 10 men when Hanif Sjahbandi foolishly lashed out and received a second yellow card. There was a double blow for Luis Milla's side when Tama was soon forced off with an injury.
Vietnam had the ball in the net twice in quick succession, but both efforts were ruled offside as Indonesia hung on.
In added-time, Tuan Tai blew a great chance when his close-range shot was brilliantly pushed onto the bar by substitute keeper Kartika Ajie.
Thailand failed to impress again, but found a way to win as they edged to a 2-0 victory over the Philippines. The Thais made the breakthrough when Montree Promsawat ghosted in at the far post to head home Kevin Deeromram's cross.
Deeromram was also the architect of Thailand's second on the stroke of half-time as another cross from the left was neatly volleyed home by Sittichok Kannoo to seal the three points. A failure to add more goals in the second half could yet prove damaging in a group where goal difference could be key.
In the battle at the bottom, Timor-Leste earned their first points of the tournament with a 1-0 victory over Cambodia.
Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK