Four-goal Chananan signals Thailand's statement of intent
Striker stars as Thais look like the team to beat
(Narubadin Weerawatnodom 10, Chananan Pombubpha 20, 47, 62-pen, 74, Nurul Sriyankem 38)
Defending South-east Asia (SEA) Games football champions Thailand issued a strong statement of intent in their opening Group B match last night by thumping Laos for six at the Bishan Stadium.
And it simply read: "We are keeping the gold."
Striker Chananan Pombubpha, in particular, destroyed the Laos defence with his deadly finishing, as he grabbed four goals to be an early contender for the tournament's top scorer.
"We have many good players from the last SEA Games," said the 23-year-old.
"But now we are stronger. I'm confident that Thailand will be able to get yet another gold medal.
"We have six players from the national team, especially the defence, and that makes our team very strong.
"I'm confident of getting another goal and, most importantly, another three points in the next game against Timor Leste."
But it was not just a one-man show, as all his 10 outfield teammates also put on a stunning show of attacking prowess.
For much of the first half, they camped in the Laos half, and coped easily on the few occasions their opponents threatened to counter-attack.
Thailand got the breakthrough after just 10 minutes, when Narubadin Weerawatnodom headed in Peerapat Notechaiya's corner at the back post.
Chananan doubled the lead 10 minutes later when he provided the finishing touch to a fluid one-touch attacking move that involved Pinyo Inpinit and Chanathip Songkrasin.
It was again Chanathip, the diminutive playmaker dubbed "Messi Jay", who pulled the strings.
He played a lovely one-two with Peerapat before setting up Nurul Sriyankem for the third, seven minutes before the break.
There was to be no respite for Laos, however, as Chananan headed another pinpoint Peerapat corner just two minutes after the restart.
The Muangthong United forward completed his hat-trick with a 62nd-minute penalty, after Nurul's charge into the box was illegally stopped by Sengdao Inthilath.
But Chananan and Thailand were not done yet.
They hit the final nail in Laos' coffin with another gem of a team goal involving Chanathip, Thitipan Puangjan and substitute Tristan Do that left Chananan with a header into an open goal.
While they matched Vietnam's 6-0 win over Brunei in the earlier Group B match, Thailand coach Choketawee Promrut said his team will not be distracted by results elsewhere.
He said: "We did not think about Vietnam, we focused only on what we had to do.
"Our team know exactly what to do, and we carried out our plan well tonight.
"It is a good start for us. Chananan played very well to score four goals."
- TNP MAN OF THE MATCH: Chananan Pombubpha
- LAOS: Vathana Keodouangdeth, Thinnakone Vongsa, Khonesavanh Sihavong, Keoviengpheth Lithideth (Maitee 46), Souk Aphone Vongchiengkham (Sitthideth Khanthavong 79), Thenthong Phonsettha (Sinnalone Sihalath 87), Bounthavy Sipasong, Soukchinda Natphasouk, Phoutthasay Khochalern, Sengdao Inthilath, Tiny Bounmalay.
- THAILAND: Chanin Sae-ear, Narubadin Weerawatnodom (Tristan Do 63), Adison Promrak, Artit Daosawang, Peerapat Notechaiya, Nurul Sriyankem (Pakorn Parmpak 63), Sarach Yooyen, Thitipan Puangjan, Chanathip Songkrasin, Pinyo Inpinit (Rungrat Phumichantuk 69), Chananan Pombubpha.