Kuala Lumpur: Thailand flexed their muscles to defeat Indonesia 4-2, while Philippines survived a late fightback to edge Timor-Leste 3-2 in Group B of the 2018 AFF Cup on Saturday.
Thailand lead the group ahead of Philippines - who are also on six points - on goal difference, while fourth-placed Indonesia must beat the Azkals in their final preliminary tie for a chance to advance to the last four while out of contention Timor-Leste will end their campaign against Singapore.
Thailand 4-2 Indonesia
In a replay of the 2016 final, it was high octane action from the start at the Rajamangala National Stadium as both teams traded early blows with the War Elephants coming close to finding the net six minutes into the match after Chalermpong Kerdkaew flashed his header wide from a set-piece.
The reigning champions almost hit the mark in the 15th minute after some neat exchanges in the buildup, but their effort was easily dealt by Indonesia goalkeeper Awan Setho Raharjo.
Indonesia, who secured their first win by defeating Timor-Leste 3-1, struck first in the 26th minute following Zulfiandi's stunning strike from 30 metres which found the top right corner of the net to put the Garudas ahead.
However, Thailand leveled the score 12 minutes later from a set-piece after Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri caught Raharjo off his line from a corner.
Spurred by the equaliser, Thailand pressed their opponents and were rewarded in stoppage time when Pansa Hemviboon tapped in from close range off a free-kick for a 2-1 lead at half-time.
Thailand continued to press their opponents and found their third goal in the 65th minute through Adisak Kraisorn who beat two defenders and blasted his effort past a hapless Raharjo for a 3-1 lead.
There was more misery for Indonesia as they conceded their fourth against the run of play after Pokklaw Anan collected a pass from Sanrawat Dechmitr before finishing off with a lob over Raharjo in the 74th minute.
Indonesia tried to claw their way back into the match and scored their second in the 89th minute when Fachruddin Aryanto connected with a header from Riko Simanjuntak’s cross.
The home side almost found the net a minute later after Evan Dimas unleashed a powerful shot which was tipped over by Siwarak Tedsungnoen as Thailand walked away with a convincing 4-2 victory.
Timor-Leste 2-3 Philippines
Kuala Lumpur: Timor-Leste who were searching for their first win at the Kuala Lumpur Stadium, came close to finding the net after Nelson Sarmento Viegas broke free on the counter in the fifth minute which forced a brilliant save from Philippines custodian Michael Falkesgaard.
The Philippines however, finally found their rhythm and scored in the 27th minute though Phil Younghusband who fired home from the edge of the box to take a 1-0 lead.
The Azkals doubled their advantage five minutes later when Martin Steuble found space at the top of the box and his powerful low drive beat Timor-Leste goalkeeper Aderito Raul Fernandes to give Sven-Goran Eriksson's side a 2-0 lead going into the break.
In the second half, the Philippines continued to dominate possession and scored their third goal in the 68th minutes after Carlos de Murga rose the highest to connect off a free-kick as they took a comfortable 3-0 lead.
Timor-Leste, however, did not sit back and earned a penalty after Paul Mulders fouled Nelson in the box as Nataniel Reis sent Falkesgaard the wrong way for a 3-1 score.
Norio Tsukitate's side then scored their second two minutes later, after Henrique Wilson picked out Joao Pedro on the run who beat the Philippines defence before rounding Falkesgaard to make it 3-2.
With 15 minutes left in the half, Philippines stayed firm and held on to their slim advantage to take home the three points as the Azkals maintained a perfect start to their campaign.
Photos: Asean Football Federation, AFP