Thailand took a huge step towards the next round of the FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifiers after they trounced South-East Asian rivals Vietnam 3-0 in Hanoi on Tuesday.
A first-half strike by Kroekrit Thawikan put the visitors ahead at My Dinh Stadium before an own goal by Dien Tien Thanh and an effort by captain Theerathon Bunmathan sealed a comprehensive win for the visitors who moved five points clear of Iraq at the top of their group.
North Korea also boosted their hopes of advancing to the next round after a 1-0 home win over Yemen while Singapore and Hong Kong claimed narrow wins against Cambodia and Bhutan respectively.
Thailand had needed a late goal to beat Vietnam 1-0 in Bangkok in May but Kiatisuk Senamuang’s side were in top form in Hanoi and took a deserved lead in the 29th minute when Kroekrit unleashed a 25-metre drive with his left foot into the top corner of Tran Nguyen Manh’s net.
The Vietnamese held former Asian champions Iraq to a 1-1 draw at the same venue last Thursday but they were cut open by the Thais again on the hour as Kroekrit’s cut-back from the left was turned by Tien Thanh into his own net.
Thailand captain Theerathon sealed his side’s victory by finishing off some excellent build-up play with a fierce shot in the 70th minute as the War Elephants moved up to 10 points from four games and within touching distance of a spot in the third round of the Asian qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup.
The winners of the eight second-round groups and the four best-performing runners-up will advance to the next round and also earn berths at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
North Korea consolidated their position at the top of Group H with a narrow home win over last-placed Yemen in Pyongyang. Jong Il-gwan’s 12th minute penalty proved decisive at Kim Il-sung Stadium as the Chollima moved four points ahead of second-placed Uzbekistan, who have played a game less.
Hong Kong moved up to 10 points in Group C, two points behind leaders Qatar, after edging a gallant Bhutan 1-0 in Thimphu. The home side had looked set to earn their first point in the group until Chan Siu Ki grabbed the winner for the visitors a minute from time.
Cambodia also remained pointless in Group E after they lost 2-1 at Singapore (main pix). The home side took the lead through Faris Ramli after 16 minutes and after Khairul Amri had missed a penalty late in the first half, they extended their advantage when substituted Fazrul Nawaz capitalised on a defensive error two minutes after the interval.
Sos Suhana narrowed the deficit midway through the second half but the Indochinese side were unable to find an equaliser as they suffered their first straight defeat in the group.
Meanwhile, Malaysia and Laos moved off the bottom of their groups after picking up the first wins of their campaign.
Malaysia won 1-0 at Timor Leste in Group A with a 10th minute strike by Amri Yahyah while Myanmar came from a goal down to beat Laos 3-1 in Group G. – Agence France-Presse
MATCHDAY 6, OCTOBER 13, TUESDAY
Timor Leste 0-1 Malaysia
Palestine v Saudi Arabia
Kyrgyzstan v Bangladesh
Jordan v Tajikistan
Bhutan 0-1 Hong Kong
Qatar v Maldives
Turkmenistan v Guam
Oman v India
Singapore 2-1 Cambodia
Syria v Afghanistan
Vietnam 0-3 Thailand
Myanmar 3-1 Laos
Kuwait v Lebanon