Thailand's Pombubpha Chananan celebrates scoring their second goal. Photo: SINGSOC
Thailand overcame a spirited Myanmar and their supportive fans 3-0 in the final of the SEA Games football tournament on Monday to cement their position as kings of the region.
Centreback Tanaboon Kesarat, who helped the men's full national team win the Southeast Asian championships in December, struck the opening goal, neatly angling his body and diverting a 51st minute home after Myanmar failed to clear a corner.
Chananan Pombubpha, who had been guilty of wasting a number of chances beforehand, made the game safe when he was put clear by playmaker Chanathip Songkrasin in the 63rd with substitute Pinyo Inpinit wrapping up the scoring with 12 minutes remaining.
The victory was the Thai's 15th football gold in the biennial multi-sports event and 10th in the last 12 editions. The under-23s won all sevens games in Singapore, conceding just one goal.
Head coach Choketawee Promrut told reporters it was the best Thai under-23 winning side to win the SEA Games title and said a halftime tactical switch won gold.
"In the first half, Myanmar were compact, very good. In the dressing room (we said that) we must play wide. It worked."
The Thai's started Monday's final as red hot favourites and carved open numerous opportunities but a combination of wasteful finishing, in particular by Chananan, and superb stops by Myanmar goalkeeper Phyo Kyaw Zin kept the match scoreless.
The Thailand team celebrates winning the gold medal. Photo: SINGSOC
Every defensive clearance roundly cheered by the majority Myanmar crowd in the National Stadium who came in hope of a first football gold in the under-23 event since 1973, also in Singapore.
The longer the match stayed goalless the more they believed an upset was possible by their team, who had over-achieved in reaching the final for the first time since 1993 and had adopted the slogan "no stars, no problem".
But eventually their resistance was broken when an inswinging corner from their right bounced off Ye Ko Oo and fell to the grateful Tanaboon.
The goal brought about a drop in defensive concentration and Chananan wasted one chance clear on goal before eventually finding the net after the talented Chanathip had dispossessed the unfortunate Ye Ko Oo in midfield and sent him through again.
Myanmar pressed for a way back into the game through the lively Shine Thura in attack but they were restricted to shots from long range before Pinyo trickled home a third after a delightful dinked through ball by skipper Sarach Yooyen.
"We missed our target, I'm very sad for our fans," said Myanmar coach Kyi Lwin, who was part of the team that lost to Thailand in the 1993 final in Singapore.