Kuala Lumpur: Reigning champions Thailand got their title defence in the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022 off to a winning start by defeating Brunei Darussalam 5-0 at Kuala Lumpur Football Stadium on Tuesday. 

Returning to the competition after 26 years, Brunei made things difficult for the six-time champions, but Bordin Phala and all-time AFF Championship top scorer Teerasil Dangda, who scored his 20th goal in the tournament, put Thailand 2-0 up at half-time.

Alexandre Polking’s side failed to find a way past Brunei’s standout goalkeeper Haimie Abdullah Nyaring for much of the second half despite enjoying 80% possession, but an own goal from Yura Indera Putera and a double from Peeradol Chamrasamee in the dying minutes gave them a 5-0 win. 

Thailand are without their talisman Chanathip Songkrasin, the three-time MVP of the AFF Championship, and talents like Supachok Sarachat and Supachai Jaided for the 2022 edition, but Polking started with veteran striker Teerasil upfront while captain Theerathon Bunmathan stepped into the midfield for their opener. 

The War Elephants could have gone in front just seconds after the kick-off only for Brunei custodian Haimie to deny Bordin from close range. Three minutes later, Adisak Kraisorn could only direct a free header from a Theerathon cross straight at the 'keeper. 

Haimie once again came to the rescue of Brunei minutes later as he stepped off his line and did enough to distract Sasalak Haiprakhon who was through on goal, but Mario Rivera side’s resistance was finally broken in the 19th minute. 

Former Yokohama F. Marinos star Theerathon’s cross into the right side of the box was played back across the goal by Teerasil for Bordin to tap in at the far post and get the War Elephants’ title defence truly underway. 

Brunei switched to a back three soon after conceding as Rivera brought on defender Hanif Hamir to replace attacker Hamizan Aziz Sulaiman, with Thailand finding it difficult to double their advantage for much of the first half despite dominating possession and chances. 

Adisak saw a header cleared off the line by Najib Tarif, but Thailand then doubled their advantage a minute before the interval through 34-year-old Teerasil who headed in a pinpoint cross from Theerathon to extend his scoring record in the tournament. 

Poramet Arjviria was played through on goal by Teerasil in the 57th minute only for Haimie to narrow the angle and deny the half-time substitute, while Teerasil continued to be in the thick of action, heading wide from a Theerathon cross on the hour mark. 

Haimi made further saves from Pansa Hemviboon and Teerasil to keep Thailand at bay and it seemed he had brilliantly kept out Poramet again in the 89th minute, only for his save to bounce off Brunei defender Indra and into the goal to make it 3-0 to Thailand. 

Indra then conceded a penalty by going in late on Sasalak and substitute Peeradol converted from the spot before he wrapped up the 5-0 win in the 93rd minute with a thumping strike from the edge of the box that left the Brunei players crestfallen. 

The result puts the defending champions top of Group A, level on three points with Cambodia, who stunned the Philippines 3-2 in the other game on the opening day.