AL AIN, UAE – The United Arab Emirates’ national soccer team on Monday had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Thailand that allowed the two teams to qualify for the Asian Cup round of 16 as winner and runner-up, respectively, of Group A.
Bahrain, meanwhile, secured a place in the knockout stage as one of the best four third-placed teams thanks to a 1-0 win over India, who has been eliminated.
At Al-Ain’s Hazza Bin Zayed stadium, the UAE (the tournament’s hosts) stormed into a 1-0 lead just seven minutes into the first half, when forward Ali Mabkhout collected a ricocheted ball off the crossbar that prevented winger Ismail Al-Hammadi from scoring on a delightful chip.
But when Mabkhout got the ball, he did not think twice and put it home on a header that defender Adison Promrak unsuccessfully tried to clear off the goal line.
With five minutes to go before the first half stoppage time, midfielder Thitipan Puangchan drew Thailand level on a close range shot, punishing the defenders and goalkeeper for their failure to clear the ball.
The 1-1 draw reigned throughout the second half and although it is not the outcome some of the home might have hoped for, but it was enough for their team to make the knockout stage as the group winner with five points, juts one ahead of Thailand.
At the Sharjah stadium, a last-gasp penalty – awarded to defender Hamad Alshamsan, who was downed inside the box by Pronay Halder – converted by midfielder Jamal Rashed gave Bahrain a 1-0 win over India, securing a berth in the second round.
Bahrain advanced to the knockout phase, being one of the best third-placed teams in the group stage.