Thailand have one foot in the final of the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup after a decisive 2-0 win in the first leg of their semi-final showdown with Vietnam at Singapore’s National Stadium.

A first half brace from Chanathip Songkrasin put Thailand in a commanding position at the break and things could have been even worse for Vietnam if not for a penalty save by Tran Nguyen Manh in the 84th minute as he denied the Thai captain his hattrick.

Coach Alexandre Polking was full of his praise for his side but also cautioned them not to get carried away.

“We have a small advantage with the two goals, it’s an important first step but it’s not done yet.

“We know that we have to adjust some things and know we can play better than this but we knew it was important to get the result.

“In the second half we changed some things in trying to stay compact but unfortunately we missed the penalty or it could have been a perfect plan but it’s over now and we need to rest and recover.”

It took Thailand just 14 minutes to take the lead as a long counter saw Nguyen Phong Hong Duy slip over as he scrambled back to try and cut things off, only to lay prone on the turf and watch as Chanathip raced past him to collect the ball and see his shot come off goalkeeper Nguyen Manh and bobble into the goal.

If there was a touch of good fortune about Thailand’s opener, the second was one of sheer class as some superb, one-touch, football saw Chanathip and Teerasil exchange passes before the diminutive star then worked a one-two with Sarach Yooyen and slid his shot past Nguyen Manh to make it 2-0 in the 23rd minute.  

Nguyen Quang Hai sent a 34th minute free kick crashing off the post before Thailand goalkeeper Chatchai Bootprom was perhaps fortunate to escape with a yellow card after he inexplicably raced out of his area and dragged down Nguyen Van Toan.

Both teams made changes at the interval, with Vietnam introducing more attacking firepower as they went in search of goals and Quang Hai came agonisingly close to pulling one back as a well-struck effort from outside the box cannoned off the bar midway through the half.

Chanathip had time to introduce some tricks and flicks on the ball with Thailand managing to limit the attacking push of the Golden Star Warriors but still the magic left foot of Quang Hai continued to conjure up chances as a delightful ball released Phan Van Duc who dragged his effort across the face of goal and wide of the far post.

Thailand were then awarded a penalty as Do Duy Manh collided with Supachai Jaided only for Chanathip to send his effort straight at Nguyen Manh who stood his ground to save the spot kick in the 84th minute.

Vietnam had a penalty shout of their own waved away in stoppage time as the ball struck the hand of substitute Weerathep Pomphan, with coach Park Hang-seo refusing to get drawn into those controversial moments.

“I don’t wish to talk about the referee, it’s unfortunate that we conceded an early goal from a mistake but I think we played well and fought hard so now we must focus for the next game.”