Tue, Feb 06, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Singapore retain Asean title after thriller in Bangkok

AP , BANGKOK

Singapore captain Aide Iskandar Bin Sahak lifts the Asean Championship trophy after his side drew with Thailand in Bangkok on Sunday evening. Singapore beat Thailand 3-2 on aggregate.

PHOTO: EPA

Singapore held Thailand to a 1-1 draw on Sunday to retain the winner's trophy in the final of the Asean Football Championship at Bangkok's Supachalasai Stadium.

Singapore defended their title with a 3-2 aggregate victory, after winning the controversial first leg 2-1 in a home game on Wednesday.

Thailand had a 1-0 lead on Sunday at half-time after a 37th minute goal by Pipat Thonkanya.

Singapore evened up the score in the 81st minute when substitute Khairul Amri charged past the Thai defense score the equalizer.

The match was held under tight security due to concerns that recently fanned sporting and political rivalries between the two countries could erupt into violence. No untoward incidents were reported.

Sunday's game had been regarded as a grudge match after Singapore's 2-1 victory on Wednesday following a disputed 83rd minute penalty. The spot kick resulted in Singapore's winning goal after the Thai team stormed off the pitch for 15 minutes to protest the award of the penalty.

Underlying the tension was anti-Singapore sentiment fanned in recent weeks by the Thai media and military, which have accused the island-nation of spying on Thailand's military.

Sunday's game proved a thriller from the opening whistle, with the hosts exerting huge pressure with a series of attacks. But the attempts either went astray or were deftly denied by Singaporean goalkeeper Lionel Lewis.

Pipat's goal drew a standing ovation from the 30,000-plus fans who filled the stadium. He responded by kneeling down on the pitch and bowing to pay respect to them.

Thailand continued to exert strong pressure after the break, but were frustrated in several close attempts on goal. Amri's equalizer for Singapore came as play turned rougher as the final whistle approached.

Thai fans weren't shy about booing the visitors, but heeded official appeals to keep the peace.

More than 600 policemen were deployed at the stadium before the game, along with about a dozen bomb-sniffing dogs, said Lieutenant Surakan Naksing of Bangkok's metropolitan police. Police distributed leaflets to fans as they entered the stadium, asking them to refrain from violence and demonstrate traditional Thai hospitality.

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