Thais make winning start to Asian championships

PHUKET, Thailand - Three-times champions Thailand got off to a flying start in the Southeast Asian championships with a 2-0 win in a tempestuous clash with archrivals Vietnam on Saturday. Lifted by an impassioned crowd in the southern island of Phuket, ex-England midfielder Peter Reid's side seized the initiative early on with slick, relentless attacking that yielded two first-half goals in the Group B game. Malaysia, however, made the early headway in the group, scoring all their goals in the last 22 minutes of their unconvincing 3-0 win over whipping boys Laos. Thailand always had the upper hand in an entertaining but bitterly-fought match, fraught with the tournament's trademark indiscipline, gamesmanship and disputed refereeing decisions. Sutee Suksomkit put the Thais ahead after 34 minutes with a perfectly-struck free kick which sailed into the top corner with the keeper rooted to the floor. Suchao Nutnum doubled the lead three minutes into first-half stoppage time when he seized on a loose ball after Vietnam goalkeeper Duong Hong Son had fumbled Natthaphong Samana's cross. "We had difficult opposition, we had chances early on and didn't finish but we kept going," Thailand coach Reid told reporters. "We deserved this win and it's a great start." His counterpart Henrique Calisto was not so impressed. "The referee wasn't fair, he was supporting Thailand," Calisto said. "This was not like international football." Malaysia had an embarrassing wait of almost 70 minutes before they found the net against Laos. Safee Sali opened the scoring on 68 minutes, Indra Putra Mahayuddin added another moments later before Sali grabbed his second three minutes from time.