Muang Thong United eye JDT playoff, win Mekong Club Championship
Muang Thong United warmed up for their upcoming AFC Champions League (ACL) qualifier against Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) by claiming their first trophy of the year as they defeated Vietnam's Sanna Khanh Hoa in the Mekong Club Championship final.
The 2016 Thai champions, who surrendered their league title to Buriram United last season, dismissed the challenge of the Vietnamese side as a 4-0 win in Bangkok earned them a 7-1 aggregate victory.
And Muang Thong gave a demonstration of their attacking depth with the goals coming from four different players, including Japan-bound striker Teerasil Dangda. He will be eligible for the clash with JDT before heading to Sanfrecce Hiroshima.
Teerasil was on target along with Adisak Kraisorn, Thossawat Limwannasathian and Siroch Chatthong, who netted a rare goal.
Having won 3-1 in the first leg in Vietnam last month, the second leg looked to be a formality for the Kirins.
But the away side put up a decent fight in the first half and won a penalty in the 39th minute after a clumsy challenge from Nukoolkit Krutyai on Lam Ti Phong.
Sanna Khánh Hòa's French striker Youssouf Toure squandered the opportunity as his spot-kick was saved by Kawin Thamsatchanan.
After a goalless first half, the Thai side stepped up a gear and demolished their opponents in the second period.
Adisak knocked in the opener from close range in the 54th minute before teeing up Thossawat to rifle in the second just three minutes later.
Heberty Fernandes put Teerasil clear to roll in the third after 78 minutes, and a fine individual strike from substitute Siroch rounded off the scoring in the 89th minute.
With the Mekong Club Championship featuring only teams from Laos and Cambodia, as well as Vietnam and Thailand, Muang Thong will know that tougher challenges lie in wait.
But the team, who reached the Round of 16 in last year's ACL, turned in an impressive second-half display to build confidence ahead of the crucial tie with JDT on Jan. 23.
Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK