Thailand advanced to the semi-final stage of the 2017 KL SEA Games after disposing Vietnam in the final fixture of Group B, the win taking them to top of the table. Vietnam who had started the tournament strongly, but now missed the boat to the knockout stage after failing to win in their last two fixtures.
Thailand dominated the opening proceedings, going on the offensive right from the start with Worachit Kanitsribumphen crashing a shot against the bar as early as the 7th minute of the first half. The same player was to threaten just seven minutes later, but this time saw his effort palmed away by Phi Minh Long.
Thailand continued to have the better half but Vietnam kept a better shape to keep the War Elephants at bay and it wasn't until the final few minutes of the first half before both sides saw chances to break the deadlock.
Against the run of play, it was the Vietnam side that fashioned a chance in the 43rd minute of the match, when Ho Tuan Tai broke the offside trap in a counter attacking move, but saw his shot landing on the top crossbar instead of the goal.
Straight from that, Thailand conjured up a counter attack of their own, but Chenrop Samphaodi couldn't keep his shot on target, despite having done all the hard work in beating two defenders to create the shooting chance for himself.
Then came the moment that altered the match situation in added time of the first half. Minh Long picked up Nguyen Tuan Anh's back pass and the referee immediately signaled for a indirect free kick inside Vietnam's penalty box. Phittiwat Sookjitthummakul picked his spot and slammed home the ball the give Thailand a 1-0 lead heading into half time.
There was to be more calamity from the Vietnam keeper early in the second half as he somehow clumsily allowed Thailand to double their lead in the 51st minute. Minh Long in coming out trying to clear the ball, clattered into his own player. That allowed Kanitsribumphen a clear path towards goal but he unselfishly square the ball for Picha Au-Tra to pass into an empty goal.
Vietnam would get a chance to halve the deficit in the 65th minute when referee blew for a penalty after Rattanakorn Maikami had taken down Nguyen Quang Hai but star player, Nguyen Cong Phuong's subsequent penalty had too much power and very little accuracy, his shot didn't even hit the target.
However, things would take a turn for worse for Vietnam as Thailand further increased their lead. In the 68th minute, a long ball pumped out of defence found Samphaodi and the striker held off a defender before slotting home from a tight angle.
Nguyen Huu Thang tried to change things around by bringing on all the attacking options he had, with Had Duc Chinh, Nguyen Quang Hai and Thanh Binh all coming on. While Vietnam started to orchestrate a few more attacks, Nont Muangngam in Thailand's goal wasn't called into action too often.
In the end, the three goals was enough for Thailand to emerge as group winners and Worrawoot Srimaka can look at the likes of Kanitsribumphen and Samphaodi as the driving force that inspired them against Vietnam.
After a slow start in the competition, Thailand's team are growing in confidence with each passing game, making them a major contender for the gold medal. They will next face Myanmar in the semi-final on Saturday. While for Vietnam, it's another case of failing to live up to expectations.