Teerasil Dangda has become the all-time leading scorer at the AFF Suzuki Cup as his brace saw Thailand book a spot in the semi-finals with a 2-1 win against the Philippines, with the Azkals now eliminated.

Goals in either half from the star forward – his 18th and 19th at the tournament  were enough despite a late rally from the Philippines that saw Patrick Reichelt score just before the hour with Thailand coach Alexandre Polking once again paying tribute to the ageless Teerasil.

“I don’t know how often I can come here and praise him, he’s the best striker I’ve coached and the best striker I’ve seen and he just proved that again.

“He creates chances, he came up with another world-class finish tonight and I hope he can keep going and score another five, six or seven goals so that we can reach and win the final.”

That latter point is, of course, the key one and Polking was relieved that his side has secured their spot in the last four with time to spare.

“I want to praise the starting players and the players that came in because this was a very important three points for us where we’ve now reached our minimum target of qualifying for the semi-finals and it gives us more time to train together.”

Thailand had the better of possession almost from kick-off but it took them a while to break down a hard-working Philippines side although when the opener came it was a history-making one.

The tournament that started way back in 1996 now has a new man all alone atop the scoring charts and Teerasil made it a statement goal.

Japan-based stars Chanathip Songkrasin and Theerathon Bunmathan were both involved as the former raced down the left before passing to the latter who slid expertly across for the onrushing Teerasil who smashed home on the half volley.

One almost became two a couple of minutes later as another cross from the left, this time from Phitiwat Sukjitthammakul, found Teerasil who couldn’t quite get a clean shot away.

Phitiwat then had the ball in the back of the net, but from an offside position, shortly after the half hour before tensions flared with a series of niggling fouls dulling the tempo as the War Elephants went to the break with their one-goal advantage.

Thailand commenced the second half at a good tempo once again and had a series of chances early after the restart as firstly Supachok Sarachat shot straight at Kevin Hansen before the impressive Azkals keeper then pulled off a fingertip save to push a piledriver from Thanawat Suengchitthawon onto the bar.

After having barely a sight on goal in the second half, the Philippines then restored parity as a lofted free-kick from Kevin Ingreso was headed back across the face of goal by Thai defender Manuel Bihr but straight into the path of Reichelt, who slid in to finish at the near post and make it 1-1 as the hour approached.

The Azkals then had a great chance to go ahead as Ingreso fired his free-kick straight into the Thai wall with a quarter of an hour remaining before Teerasil extended his scoring record from the penalty spot after Amani Aguinaldo had clipped Thitiphan Puangchan to make it 2-1 in the 78th minute.

Teerasil then missed a golden chance to complete his hat-trick as he sent a downward header straight at Hansen in the 86th minute in what was the final action of the 2-1 win that sent Thailand into the semis with a game to spare.

For the Philippines, their campaign has ended after just three matches due to an inferior head-to-head record against both the Thais and Singapore ,with coach Stewart Hall claiming that the match turned on that second-half penalty.

“Up until then we were right in the game. Credit to Thailand because they played well but the penalty was obviously the deciding factor.”