The second round of the AFC Asian Cup group matches got underway with the clash between Bahrain and Thailand at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai and Thai’s interim coach had immediate success with a 1-0 win thanks to Chanathip Songkrasin hitting home the only goal of the game.
It was an intriguing fixture between two teams ranked well down in FIFA’s rankings but having had contrasting starts to their campaigns.
Bahrain were buoyant after holding United Arab Emirates to a 1-1 draw and had been unfortunate that the host nation were able to equalise through a controversial penalty. They made one change to their side bringing in midfielder Mohamed Marhoon.
Thailand, though, had been stunned 4-1 by India. They immediately sacked their Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac with assistant coach Sirisak Yodyardthai taking up the reigns. He decided to make four changes to the starting line up including reserve goalkeeper, Siwarak Tedsungnoen, coming into the side and three changes across the back line.
As it turned out, Bahrain dominated the first half with Thailand coming back strongly in the second.
In the 13th minute Pansa Hemviboon earned his second booking of the tournament when he brought down Ali Madan with the resulting free kick being blocked by the Thailand’s defensive wall.
Five minutes later and Madan produced the first effort on target but his glancing header was straight at Tedsungnoen.
Just before the half hour mark Tedsungnoen was forced into a double save and from the second effort he had to get down smartly to his right as Mohamed Marhoon shot from a tight angle.
The best chance of the half came with three minutes to go when a short corner led to to the ball being crossed to Mohamed Al Romaihi at the far post but he headed wastefully over the bar.
The first 45 minutes were summed up by the last attempt of the half when Sayed Dhiya Saeed blazed a free kick high over the top of the Thai goal.
Having created little before the break Thailand started the second period on the front foot putting Bahrain’s defence under immediate pressure but their efforts only culminated in a wild shot well wide by Tristan Do.
In the 58th minute their efforts paid off. Do found room down the right and Songkrasin had time to allow the ball onto his favoured left foot and fire home into the roof of the net (0-1).
Bahrain tried to lift their game but the goal had spurred on Thailand and they should have increased their lead in the 72nd minute. Songkrasin played in Adisak Kraisorn who had plenty of space but his low effort hit the base of the near post.
Having played so well in the second half of their game against United Arab Emirates, Bahrain couldn’t find the same momentum and failed to create any meaningful opportunities as the game progressed with Thailand tenacious and determined to hold on to their lead.
Substitute Korrakot Wiriyaudomsiri came close to producing a stunning second goal. Once again Songkrasin was the provider but Wiriyaudomsiri had to take on two players starting his mazy run from the centre circle and finishing with a powerful shot that Sayed Shubbar Alawi just got a hand to.
The result left what is probably the weakest group in the tournament wide open with both teams still able to qualify for the knockout stages with Bahrain knowing that they will probably have to win their final match against India.