Al Hilal reach AFC Champions League 2019 final despite 2-4 defeat to Al Sadd in second leg

Highlights – Al Hilal vs Al Sadd

Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal SFC booked a place in the final of the AFC Champions League 2019 after a 6-5 aggregate win over their semifinal opponents — Qatar Stars League side Al Sadd SC — on Tuesday.

Al Hilal were 4-1 winners in the first leg away at Doha and in the driver’s seat for the return leg at the King Saudi University Stadium in Riyadh. But, Xavi Hernandez’s Al Sadd side put on a spirited display to make the second leg a nail-biting affair.

Al Sadd had given themselves a lifeline by scoring three in three minutes after Salem Al-Dawsari’s opener for Al Hilal. However, Bafetimbi Gomis’ strike in the 25th minute once again gave the hosts a two-goal advantage.

Al Sadd probed for the two goals that would take them into the final, but had to wait until the second-half injury time for a goal from Boualem Khoukhi. The visitors, needing a goal to progress, were given a freekick at the edge of the box in what was to be the final kick off the game, but failed to score.

Al Sadd had a mountain to climb after going down 4-1 at home in the semifinal first leg on October 1 and head coach Xavi was not helped by the absences of the suspended duo — fullback Abdelkarim Hassan and striker Baghdad Bounedjah.

And there was a feeling in Riyadh that the game was already in the bag when Al-Dawsari opened the scoring for Al Hilal in the 13th minute after Khoukhi had failed to get enough distance on the clearance of a Yasser Al-Shahrani cross.

AFC Champions League 2019: Al Hilal FC 1-0 Al Sadd (Salem Al-Dawsari 13′)

However, the visitors received a much needed fillip when Singaporean referee Muhammad Taqi pointed to the penalty spot after Akram Afif had gone down inside the box under contact from Mohammed Al-Breik. The young Qatar winger himself converted from the spot to make it 1-1 in the 17th minute.

Saudi Professional League table toppers Al Hilal would have still felt pretty comfortable with the 5-2 aggregate scoreline, but that was to change in the space of two minutes as the visiting QSL outfit went 3-1 up by the 20th minute!

AFC Champions League 2019: Al Hilal FC 1-3 Al Sadd (Hassan Al-Haydos 20′)

A quick turn of possession saw 19-year-old stand-in Hashim Ali setting up Nam Tae-hee for Al Sadd’s second in the 19th minute before captain Hassan Al Haydos made it 5-4 on aggregate the very next minute after Nam was once again played through on goal.

However, the Saudis restored the two-goal lead five minutes later when Sebastian Giovinco’s delightful cross was turned in by Gomis for his 10th goal of ACL 2019 and to somewhat settle the Al Hilal nerves.

AFC Champions League 2019: Al Hilal FC 2-3 Al Sadd (Bafetimbi Gomis 25′)

The second half wasn’t as open as the first 45 minutes and Al Sadd found it hard to break open the Al Hilal defence as they went in search of the two goals that would have sent them through to the final.

Nam fired a long-rang effort wide for Al Sadd from a rare opening, but it was Al Hilal who perhaps had the best opportunity of the second period when Giovinco’s backheel pass put Al-Dawsari through on goal only for Al Sadd goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb to deny the Saudi attacker in the 80th minute.

Akram fired over from inside the box in the 81st minute and Pedro was denied by Al Hilal custodian Abdullah Al-Mayouf in the 88th minute and by Al-Shahrani in the injury time before Khoukhi headed in a corner kick in the third minute of the added time to put Al Sadd one goal away from a place in the final, but with only seconds left to play.

The visitors were handed a glorious opportunity when they won a freekick at the edge of the box with barely any time left to play, but Al-Mayouf came to Al Hilal’s rescue by collecting the setpiece as Al Sadd crashed out of the AFC Champions League in the semifinals for the second season running.

Al Hilal will meanwhile face Urawa Red Diamonds or Guangzhou Evergrande in the final of ACL 2019 next month. Urawa take a 2-0 lead to the second leg which will be played at the Tainhe Stadium in Guangzhou on Wednesday.

Buriram United, Chiangrai United take Thai League 1 title race to final day of the season

Thai League Buriram

Wins for Buriram United and Chiangrai United in the Thai League 1 on Sunday mean that the winners of the Thai top division will be decided on its final matchday on October 26.

Buriram defeated Port FC 3-1 while Chiangrai overcame PT Prachuap FC 4-1 in the league’s penultimate fixtures. The defeat to Buriram also signalled the end of Port’s dream of a first-ever Thai League 1 title, but they will have a shot at a trophy in next month’s Thai FA Cup 2019 final.

Buriram, starting the day on 54 points, had to defeat second-placed Port and hope that third-placed Chiangrai, level on points with Port at 52, were held to a draw or defeated by Prachuap in order to secure the title before the final day of the season.

Port were the ones who took an early lead against the Thunder Castles as Spanish midfielder made it 1-0 to the visiting side in the 20th minute of the game at the Chang Arena.

However, two goals in two minutes gave the home side a 2-1 lead heading into the half-time break. It was Dutch forward Nacer Barazite who struck first for the defending champions in the 34th minute to restore the parity.

Two minutes later, Thailand international Supachok Sarachat was on target to make it 2-1 for Bozidar Bandovic’s men before Kevin Ingresso made it 3-1 from a freekick in the 71st minute.

Meanwhile, Brazilian forward William Henrique scored a brace as Chiangrai defeated Prachuap 4-1 to put pressure on Buriram on the final day.

After failing to find an opening past the Prachuap defence, Henrique finally opened the scoring for the Beetles in the injury time of the first half at the Singha Stadium in Chiangrai.

Floodgates opened after Prachuap were reduced to 10 men in the 58th minute as Sivakorn Tiatrakul doubled the hosts’ advantage. Henrique added his second in the 64th minute, but Siroch Chatthong pulled one back for the visitors in the 69th minute.

19-year-old Ekanit Panya, who had scored his first goal for Thailand in their 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers win over the United Arab Emirates last week, sealed the 4-1 result in the 80th minute.

Buriram will travel to Chiangmai FC while Chiangrai take on hosts Suphanburi FC on the final day of the league. Chiangrai will have to defeat Suphaburi and hope Buriram lose to bottom-placed Chiangmai, whose relegation are already confirmed, in order to lift the title come Saturday.

Buriram have won the Thai top division since times since winning their maiden title in 2008 also lifting the trophy in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018. Meanwhile, Chiangrai have never won the Thai League 1 before despite winning the Thai FA Cup in 2017 and 2018 and the Thai League Cup in 2018.

Myanmar sack head coach Miodrag Radulovic and bring back former boss Antoine Hey

Myanmar

Myanmar Football Federation (MFF) have announced that they have parted ways with national team head coach Miodrag Radulovic after the Asian Lions’ poor start to their 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers campaign.

MFF said on Sunday that they had terminated their agreement with the Montenegrin coach by mutual agreement between the two parties. They also announced the return of German coach Antoine Hey as the new Myanmar boss.

“After analysing the recent World Cup Qualifiers matches, MFF decided that Radulovic is not suitable for the head coach position and decided to cancel the agreement,” the MFF said in a statement.

“MFF needed to appoint a new head coach immediately and Antonie Hey is already familiar with Myanmar football. MFF decided to appoint him as new the head coach,” read the statement.

“Also, U Kyi Lwin will be appointed as new assistant head coach to compete in the remaining 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Joint-Qualifiers second round matches,” MFF added.

Former Lebanon national team manager Radulovic was named as the Myanmar head coach back in April 2019. But Radulovic saw his side suffer a shock 1-0 defeat to Mongolia in the World Cup Qualifiers opener before going down 2-0 to Japan and 7-0 to Kyrgyz Republic.

Hey, meanwhile, was sacked after Myanmar exited the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 in the group stages last December.

Thai FA Cup 2019 final between Port FC and Ratchaburi Mitr Phol FC to have VAR

Thai FA Cup

Next month’s 2019 Thai FA Cup final between Port FC and Ratchaburi Mitr Phol FC to be played at the Leo Stadium in Pathum Thani will have the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology.

Thai League 1 sides Port and Ratchaburi are set to face each other in the final of the 24th edition of the country’s knockout football competition on November 2.

And the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) have confirmed that the VAR technology will be implemented for the FA Cup decider at the Leo Stadium.

Port FC, who are challenging Buriram United and Chiangrai United for the title in Thai League 1 this season, reached the final of the cup competition with a 5-4 win over their semifinal opponents Bangkok United in the penalty shootouts.

Meanwhile, Ratchaburi Mitr Phol shocked defending Thai League champions Buriram 2-1 in the other semifinal played at the 72nd Anniversary Min Buri Stadium on September 18.

Chiangrai were the winner of the 2018 Thai FA Cup after defeating Buriram United 3-2 in last year’s final.

FA Thailand had implemented VAR in the Thai League last season, but suspended it after complaints from various top division clubs. And it was expected to be reintroduced for the second half of the ongoing Thai League season, but the implementation has seen delays due to technical issues.

Thailand head coach Akira Nishino accuses Vietnam players of being unprofessional

Thailand Vietnam

Thailand head coach Akira Nishino has taken a dig at Vietnam players for their time-wasting tactics during their 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers meeting last month.

Thailand and Vietnam had met at the Thammasat Stadium on September 5 and the two teams played out a goalless draw. They will once again meet in a potential top-of-the-table clash at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi on November 19.

Thailand and Vietnam have seven points in Group G of the 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Joint-Qualifiers second round while early favourites United Arab Emirates (UAE) are third with six points.

THAILAND 0 – 0 VIETNAM: Spurned chances & mutual respect

And following October’s qualification fixture that saw the War Elephants defeat UAE 2-1, Nishino hit out at the ‘time-wasting tactics’ deployed by Park Hang-seo’s Vietnam during the World Cup Qualifiers opener.

The incident that irked the former Japan national team boss took place in the 86th minute when Consadole Sapporo star Chanathip Songkrasin fouled Vietnam defender Bui Tien Dung and the centre-back stayed down on the pitch for more time than that pleased Nishino.

“It happened right in front of me and I thought the Vietnam player intentionally laid down to delay the match. So I said some bad words in Japanese, and told him to stand up quickly to continue the match,” Nishino told Thai news outlet DailyNews (via VOV World).

“As I see it, in some countries with a low or average football level, the real time of a match is less than 90 minutes. They really only play in 50-60 minutes. In a more developed countries, players make every effort to reach a good outcome,” the Thailand boss said.

“But here, I could not understand their style. Football will not improve if there are many unprofessional players like that,” he added.

Malaysian champions JDT bid farewell to Larkin Stadium after six years at home

JDT larkin stadium

Malaysia Super League champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) FC have bid farewell to the Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium a.k.a. Larkin Stadium — their home since 2013. 

The 2-1 win over Selangor FA in the first leg of Malaysia Cup 2019 semifinal on Saturday was the final home game played by the team at the Larkin Stadium as they shift to the brand new 40,000-seater Sultan Ibrahim Larkin Stadium for next season.

The 30,000-seater Larkin Stadium has been home to the Souther Tigers since its renovation in 2013 and has witnessed several historical triumphs from the JDT club as they tasted unprecedented success in the Malaysian domestic circuit.

These include 13 trophies, including their sixth consecutive Liga Super Malaysia title this season during all of which the club remained unbeaten at home. In fact, their 75-match unbeaten run at the Larkin Stadium was brought to an end by PJ City FC only this July.

 

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Thanks for Everything Larkin. Thank you for All the Memories💙♥️

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“Thank you for the memories, Larkin!” the club posted on social media while JDT owner Tunku Ismail Idris also reflected the sentiment. “Thanks for everything Larkin. Thank you for all the memories,” the Crown Prince of Johor wrote.

Syafiq Ahmad opened the scoring for the home side in their final match at the Larkin Stadium, but Ifedayo Olusegun scored the leveller for the visiting Selangor only two minutes later. The first-leg clincher came from the boots of Leandro Velazquez who scored JDT’s last goal at Larkin.

 

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Goodbye Larkin Stadium. Thank you for the memories! #johordarultakzim #johor #msl #johorsouthertigers #ultras #larkin #final

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JDT will move to the state-of-the-art Sultan Ibrahim Larkin Stadium located at Iskandar Puteri of Johor for the next season that will also see them compete in the AFC Champions League.

The construction of the stadium inside the JDT Sports City began in January 2016 and is estimated to have cost around US$ 48 million.

(Photo credit: JDT)

Malaysia Cup 2019: JDT beat Selangor 2-1 in semifinal first leg; Kedah hold Pahang to 3-3 draw

JDT Kedah

Kedah FA held Pahang FA to a dramatic 3-3 draw in what was a rollercoaster 90 minutes of football in the semifinal first leg of the Malaysia Cup 2019 at the Darul Aman Stadium in Alor Setar on Saturday.

Visitors Pahang were 2-0 up before the half-hour mark, but Kedah came back to draw the game at 2-2 by the half-time break. However, the visitors once again took the lead midway through the second half only for Kedah to score in the injury time and share the spoils.

Meanwhile, Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) FC recorded a 2-1 win over Selangor FA in the first leg of the other semifinal fixture in the 93rd edition of Piala Malaysia at the Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium in Johor.

Hosts JDT launched into the lead in the 15th minute when captain Hariss Harun released Syafiq Ahmad with a ball over the Selangor defence. Syafiq, who has been in excellent form at the international stage, timed his run well, but lost his footing while trying to get past the goalkeeper.

But that did not stop the 24-year-old from applying a cheeky finish while on the floor to give the Southern Tigers a 1-0 lead. But that lead did not last long as Nigerian forward Ifedayo Olusegun’s goal restored the parity only a couple of minutes later.

The second half began with the Malaysian champions regaining the lead through a Leandro Velazquez strike in the 49th minute — a stunning effort from outside the box that curled into the top corner giving Selangor keeper Khairulazhan Khalid no chance.

In the other last four tie, visitors Pahang had a dream start to their semifinal first leg against Kedah in Alor Setar as Wan Zaharulnizam Zakaria  and Dickson Nwakaeme gave them a 2-0 lead by the 26th minute.

However, the hosts were not ready to go down that easily and levelled things up by the half-time break as Fernando Rodriguez scored a brace. Kedah could have taken a 3-2 lead by the break, but Jonathan Bauman’s penalty was saved by Pahang goalkeeper Helmi Eliza between Rodriguez’s two strikes.

Pahang were the side who went 3-2 up instead as Azam Azih found the back of the net in the 73rd minute for what was looking like the first-leg decider. That was only until veteran forward Zaquan Adha found the equaliser for the hosts in the fourth minute of the second-half injury time.

The second legs will take place on October 26 with JDT travelling to the Shah Alam Stadium to take on Selangor while Pahang host Kedah at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan.

(Photo credit: Johor Darul Ta’zim)

Malaysia to face Tajikistan in friendly before November’s crucial World Cup Qualifiers ties

Malaysia

Malaysia will face Tajikistan in an international friendly match before facing Thailand and Indonesia in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers next month.

Harimau Malaya will be desperate for a win against the War Elephants when the two sides meet at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium on November 14 as Tan Cheng Hoe’s side have suffered back-to-back defeats in the qualifiers after a winning start away at Indonesia.

Passion, Pride, Honour: This is Derbi Nusantara

The Malaysians are also set to host Indonesia on November 19 in what will be the return leg of their clash at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta last month which saw plenty of drama on the field and fan clashes on the stands.

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have announced that their team will warm up for the two important ties with a friendly match against Tajikistan at the Bukit Jalil Stadium on November 9.

Malaysia are ranked 158th in the latest FIFA World Rankings while Tajikistan sit 115th.

Cheng Hoe’s Malaysia are currently fourth in Group G of the 2022 World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup Joint-Qualifiers second round with three points from three matches — only ahead of Indonesia who are fifth with no point from four games.

Thailand and Vietnam are top with seven points from four matches while United Arab Emirates (UAE) are third with six points from four matches.

Usmon Toshev’s Tajikistan, meanwhile, have recorded two wins and a defeat in Group F of World Cup Qualifiers and sit third with six points behind Japan, who have nine points, and Kyrgyz Republic who have collected six points.

Thailand drop Sweden-born defender from 2019 SEA Games camp for lying about injury

Thailand Kevin Deeromram

Thailand head coach Akira Nishino has dropped Kevin Deeromram from his squad after the defender failed to report to the U-23 national team camp.

The 22-year-old Port FC star was among probables named by Nishino for the camp ahead of the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines and the 2020 AFC U23 Championship that Thailand will host in January 2020.

The left-back had pulled out of the national team camp citing an injury. However, it has emerged that Kevin was among the players who were named in a warm-up game for Port FC during the same time U-23 national camp was being held.

Kevin was part of the Thailand U-23 national team that won the gold at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia two years ago.

 

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“We [coaches] presented [Kevin’s] name to Nishino for a place in the senior team but decided that he would be of more use in the U-23s. There are not many left wing-backs around who are below 23 years, so we wanted him to train with the youth team,” Thailand assistant coach Anurak Srikerd was quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post.

“But we were informed that he could not join the team because he had an injury. And this was not the first time — every time we gave him a national team call-up, he excused himself by citing injury,” Anurak told the Thai news outlet.

“The proper procedure would have been to report to the camp and then pull out. At least, when he is in the camp and he is not feeling well, the national team doctor can look after him. His acts show he doesn’t realise the importance of being a national team player,” the Thailand assistant coach added.

Ekanit Panya’s winner sees Thailand record famous win over UAE

“At first, Nishino said he will not call him for any national side again because Kevin doesn’t seem to be willing to play for the national team. However, we are not closing the door on him for the national team. We want him to change his attitude because he could be one of the key players for Thailand in the future,” he said.

Thailand are in Group B of the men’s football competition in the 2019 SEA Games along with Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam and Laos. The matches are slated be held from November 26 to December 10.

LIVE: Malaysia Cup 2019 – JDT vs Selangor FA

JDT malaysia Cup 2019

Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) FC will take on Selangor FA in the semifinal first leg of the Malaysia Cup 2019 at the Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium in Johor on Saturday.

JDT have already tasted triumph domestically this season after secureing their sixth consecutive Malaysia Super League title this season while also giving a good account of themselves in their debut season in the AFC Champions League group stages.

However, they will be looking to inch closer to adding another silverware to their trophy cabinet when they take on Selangor in the semifinals of the 93rd edition of Piala Malaysia.

JDT had thrashed Terengganu FC 5-1 on aggregate in the quarterfinals after progressing as winners of Group B that featured PKNP FC, UKM FC and PJ City FC. Meanwhile, Selangor were winners of Group D ahead of Melaka United, FELDA United and PDRM FA before they overcame defending champions Perak TBG 3-2 on aggregate in their last eight tie.

The second leg will take place at the Shah Alam Stadium on October 26. Kedah FA will face Pahang FA in the other semifinal. The final of the Malaysia Cup 2019 is slated to be held next month.

JDT vs Selangor FA in the Malaysia Cup 2019 semifinal first leg will kick off at 9 PM HKT. You can follow updates from the match LIVE on our Matchday Blog right here!

Vietnam superstar Nguyen Quang Hai linked with transfer to clubs in Spain, Japan and Thailand

Quang Hai

Vietnam superstar Nguyen Quang Hai has been long anticipated to make a move outside of Vietnam and is now reportedly a target of La Liga, J1 League and Thai League 1 clubs.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder was expected to make a move to the top division of Japan or Thailand following a brilliant performance in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 where he guided Park Hang-seo’s Vietnam to the quarterfinals, while La Liga side Deportivo Alaves had reportedly offered him a trials.

However, the Vietnamese star decided to stay with V.League side Hanoi FC helping them to win a record fifth league title and reaching the Inter-Zone Play-Off Final of the AFC Cup 2019 only to narrowly lose out to DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC.

AFC Cup 2019: Hanoi FC 2-1 Altyn Asyr (Nguyen Quang Hai 61′)

And Quang Hai is now once again the subject of rumours linking him with a move abroad.

Thai website SiamSport are reporting that while Quang Hai continues to be a target of Deportivo, the Spaniards will have to fend off interest from multiple Japanese clubs for the signature of the highly sought-after Vietnam international.

Meanwhile, the report also name-dropped BG Pathum United as one of the clubs from Thailand who are interested in the player after the club earned a promotion to next season’s Thai League 1 as second division champions.

However, SiamSport also claim that an offer from BG Pathum United was rejected by the V.League champions.

Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand find out opponents in 2020 AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers

Vietnam Thailand Myanmar Olympics

The 2020 AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers will resume in February 2020 with three ASEAN sides — Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar – among eight Asian nations fighting for the two spots available for Tokyo.

Vietnam had progressed to the third round in April 2019 as winners of Group B which had also featured Uzbekistan, Jordan and Hong Kong while Myanmar went through from Group A ahead of India, Nepal and Indonesia. Chinese Taipei were the other side to progress from the second round.

In the third round, the trio will be joined by five highest-ranked women’s football sides from Asia in Australia, DPR Korea, Korea Republic, China PR and Thailand who will now be pitted into two groups of four teams each.

In the group stage draw held in Kuala Lumpur, Vietnam and Myanmar were handed a tough challenge as they were drawn into Group A featuring the two Korean giants.

Meanwhile, Thailand are in Group B also featuring Australia, China PR and Chinese Taipei. The matches will be held from February 3 to 9 of next year with Group A to be hosted by South Korea and Group B to be played out in China.

Top two teams from each group will make it to the two-legged play-off ties of the Olympic Qualifiers, to be held in March 2020, from which two winners will join Olympic hosts Japan in the women’s football competitions for next year’s Summer Olympics.

2020 AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers Third Round Draw

Group A – DPR Korea, Korea Republic (hosts), Vietnam, Myanmar

Group B – Australia, China PR (hosts), Thailand, Chinese Taipei

Indonesia defeat China 3-1 in friendly match ahead of 2020 AFC U19 Championship Qualifiers

Indonesia

Indonesia U-19 national team defeated China PR U-19 national team in a friendly match held at the Gelora Bung Tomo Stadium in Surabaya on Thursday.

Amiruddin Bagus Kahfi Al Fikri gave Fakhri Husaini’s Indonesia the lead in the 14th minute of the game before Muhammad Fajar Fathurrahman made it 2-0 in the 27th minute.

It was 3-0 to Indonesia in the 37th minute when Alfeandra Dewangga planted a brilliant header past the Chinese keeper.

Tao Qianglong returned a goal for the visiting Chinese side in the 63rd minute, but Indonesia held on for a 3-1 win that will give them a boost ahead of next month’s 2020 AFC U19 Championship Qualifiers.

Both Indonesia and China will be in action at the 2020 AFC U19 Championship Qualifiers to be held from November 2 to 6 in 11 groups across Asia. The 11 group winners plus four best runners-up will make it to the tournament proper to be held in Uzbekistan from October 14 to 31 next year.

Indonesia will host Group K of the continental championship qualifiers at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium and Gelora Bung Karno Madya Stadium in Jakarta. They will compete with DPR Korea, Timor-Leste and Hong Kong for a berth in the tournament from Group K.

Meanwhile, China are in Group I of the qualifiers where they are joined by China PR, Singapore and hosts Myanmar. The matches in Group I will take place at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon.

(Photo credit: PSSI)

Teamwork key for Thailand, head coach Akira Nishino says after going top in World Cup Qualifiers group

Thailand

Thailand pulled off a massive result on the fourth matchday of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers when they defeated United Arab Emirates (UAE) 2-1 at the Thammasat Stadium on Tuesday.

What makes the result all the more impressive is the fact that they did so in the absence of two of their biggest stars — Chanathip Songkrasin and Thitipan Puangchan both of whom ply their trade in the Japanese top division.

Thailand stun UAE to go top of World Cup qualifying group

Veteran striker Teerasil Dangda gave hosts Thailand the lead in the 26th minute, but Ali Mabkhout levelled the score in the first-half added time for UAE. However, 19-year-old Ekanit Panya emerged as the hero for the War Elephants finding the winner in the 51st minute.

And Thailand’s head coach Akira Nishino reiterated the importance of teamwork following the win. “To get results, we have to play as a team. When players perform well, their teammates respond and that is what happened against the UAE,” the Japanese coach said (via The-AFC.com).

Thailand sit top of the Group G standings with seven points — the same as Vietnam who are second, while UAE are third with six points. Malaysia and Indonesia are fourth and fifth.

“We have only played three matches and we don’t want to look too far ahead. We want to focus on one game at a time. From this game against the UAE, we have learnt new things which will help when we face Malaysia in our next match [on November 14],” the former Japan head coach said.

“We have to continue what we showed against the UAE, who are formidable opponents. We have to show that Thailand football can compete with the best,” he added.

(Photo credit: FA Thailand)