Philippines were unable to find a way past resolute ten-man Thailand on Saturday as both sides played out a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final.
In a keenly-contested clash at the Rizal Memorial Stadium, it was the Thais who got off to a brighter start and threatened as early as the second minute when Sarach Yooyen curled a dangerous freekick from the edge of the box inches wide of the near post.
Buoyed by their bright start, the visitors began to dominate possession and looked threatening every time they pushed forward, although coach Kiatisuk Senamuang was forced into a change in the 22nd minute when striker Kirati Keawsombat picked up a hamstring injury and was replaced by Adisak Kraisorn.
However, the Azkals did eventually find their rhythm and Phil Younghusband had their first real chance on the half-hour mark following an industrious charge that saw him force his way past one defender and skip inside another, only to fire his shot straight at Kawin Thamsatchanan.
It then looked as though Younghusband would score three minutes before halftime when he lined up a 25-yard freekick and curled in a shot that looked destined to fly in at the near post, until Kawin produced a flying save to keep it out at full stretch.
Aware that the hosts were beginning to get into the contest, Thailand came off for the second half looking a side determined to grab a valuable away goal – and it nearly arrived in the 51st minute.
Neat link-up play between Adisak and Chanathip Songkrasin eventually saw the latter slip a lovely reverse pass into the path of Peerapat Notechaiya, but he could only lash a shot into the side-netting.
Three minutes later, it was Philippines’ turn to push forward and another determined run by Younghusband saw him latch on an incisive pass from Daisuke Sato and break free inside the box, but he just slipped at the vital moment – under pressure from Suttinun Phuk-hom – with only Kawin to beat.
Straight away, the War Elephants broke on the counter and created a golden opportunity but Sarawut Masuk narrowly failed to turn the ball into the back of the net with opposition keeper Patrick Deyto completely out of the equation, after Charyl Chappuis had played a dangerous ball across the face of goal.
The same combination carved out another opening a minute after the hour mark when Chappuis received possession from Chanathip and floated in a dangerous cross, only for Sarawut to fail to connect with an acrobatic volley after being left unmarked inside the area.
Nonetheless, Thailand were dealt a real blow in the 68th minute when Adisak was shown a straight red after an off-the-ball incident that saw Amani Aguinaldo rolling on the ground and clutching his face in agony.
Replays suggested that the BEC Tero Sasana striker had caught his opponent with an elbow in retaliation, but Aguinaldo was perhaps lucky to have stayed on the field after appearing to provoke Adisak with an attempted headbutt.
With a one-man advantage, the Azkals started to show greater urgency in their search for the winner and Younghusband was looking their most-dangerous player, although he was unable to really test Kawin with another long-range strike in the 71st minute.
But in the end, they were just unable to find a way past Kawin and his resolute defence that was marshalled authoritatively by Suttinun and Tanaboon Kesarat, leaving both sides to have to settle for a share of the spoils ahead of next Wednesday’s second leg at the Rajamangala Stadium.
Philippines: Patrick Deyto, Simone Rota (Kenshiro Daniels 63’), Amani Aguinaldo, Rob Gier, Daisuke Sato (James Younghusband 85’), Manny Ott, Jerry Lucena, Martin Steuble, Paul Mulders (Patrick Reichelt 61’), Misagh Bahadoran, Phil Younghusband.
Thailand: Kawin Thamsatchanan, Narubodin Weerawatnodom, Suttinun Phuk-hom, Tanaboon Kesarat, Peerapat Notechaiya, Sarach Yooyen, Charyl Chappuis, Chanathip Songkrasin, Sarawut Masuk (Prakit Deeprom 77’), Kroekrit Thaweekarn (Monkol Tossagri 86’), Kirati Keawsombat (Adisak Kraisorn 22’).