Dubai: Thailand came back roaring with a stunning 1-0 win over fancied Bahrain to keep their hopes alive in Group A of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup at Al Nasr Club’s Maktoum Stadium on Thursday.
Pushed on the back foot through much of the game, the Thais — who went down to a 4-1 drubbing from India in last Sunday’s opener — found the match-winner through a 58th-minute strike from Chanathip Songkrasin to take maximum points and help Thailand secure their first win after 39 years. Now with three points compared to Bahrain’s one, the Thai position in the group will become clearer after group leaders India play hosts the UAE later on Thursday.
“What can I say? We were supposed to win the three points today and their coach didn’t make too many changes. But what we missed is the quality in finishing so many chances that we got today. Our last touch once we approached the 16-yard box was bad and that ultimately proved to be crucial,” Soukup admitted later.
“Maybe we were more nervous today and Thailand were more prepared than us and they were more compact. We have lost today, but we still have a chance if we can win against India in our last match,” he added.
As promised, there was an early onslaught from Bahrain, but Miroslav Soukup’s boys found it increasingly tough to break down a tight Thai defensive wall marshalled by Pansa Hemviboon and Suphan Thongsong.
The Thais were at the receiving end again as Bahrain enjoyed 73 per cent possession while creating a bulk of the chances but simply couldn’t breach Thai goal as the teams headed in for the break tied goalless.
Things changed in the second half and it was the Thais who started seeing more of the ball. After a few clear looks on the Bahrain goal it was Thailand who managed to break the deadlock of a crisp down the left that saw Tristan Do push into the area for an onrushing Chanathip Songkrasin — who plays for Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in Japan — to volley home past a stranded Sayed Shubbar Alawi.
After that it was mostly about Bahrain searching for an equaliser, while the Thais — playing with just Songkrasin and Adisak Kraison upfront — managed to hold on to their own and make the quick counters against an opponent that slowly started dropping their shoulders. The East Asians could have settled the issue in the 72nd minute when Kraison’s run down the right saw the Muangthong United striker hit the upright.
Skipper Teerasil Dangda was the next one to be denied after his attempt at goal in the 90th minute was parried away by Alawi to avert further heartache for the Bahrainis.
Interim coach Sirisak Yodyadthai was not surprised with the result. “We did very well to keep Bahrain away from a goal in the first half, and then in the second half, the players delivered exactly what I wanted. We deserved this win and now we will start getting ready for the next game,” Yodyadthai said.
“I had promised a surprise in the prematch conference, and that came basically from the belief I had from my players. I always believed they could deliver on the pitch. It will be tough against the UAE but I will continue believing,” he added.
Thailand will next play the UAE at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, while Bahrain will take on India in Sharjah in their last Group A encounters on January 14.