Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang is hoping his young side can take lessons from Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Philippines in the first leg of their 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final tie.
The War Elephants, regarded by many as tournament favourites, charged into the last four of the competition after winning all three of their Group B games against Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar.
They were expected to continue their impressive displays at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Saturday against a Philippines side that had lost all six of their previous meetings in the competition, but were instead given quite a stern test.
The Azkals threatened on numerous occasions and only the heroics of Kawin Thamsatchanan, as well as some resolute defending from the likes of Suttinun Phuk-hom and Peerapat Notechaiaya, prevented the Thais from falling to a shock defeat.
To make matters worse for Kiatisuk, striker Adisak Kraisorn will be suspended for the next game after being shown a straight red following an off-the-ball incident with Amani Aguinaldo, having been introduced as a substitute earlier in Saturday’s match for the injured Kirati Keawsombat.
Admitting their opening encounter with Philippines had been far from straightforward, Kiatisuk spoke of his optimism that his side were able to take out the positives ahead of next Wednesday’s second leg at the Rajamangala Stadium.
“It was not easy for us today [Saturday],” he said. “Philippines are a very strong team and we respect them.
“They worked hard and we also tried, but this is football – you cannot expect to win all the time.
“Today was difficult for us tactically especially when we got the red card. It was just a tackle but the referee thought something else of it and we respect his decision.
“My team is so young – they have to learn many things like playing with ten men.”
With Adisak missing through suspension and Kirati likely to be absent after appearing to pick up a serious hamstring injury, it remains to be seen who the War Elephants boss will turn to in order to fill the void in attack.
The two most straightforward replacements are Bangkok United’s Sompong Soleb and Chainarong Tathong of Army United given they are the other two recognised strikers in his 22-man squad, but neither have exactly fired on all cylinders in the Thai Premier League this season.