Thailand back in the Asian Cup hunt with win over Bahrain

Thailand midfielder Chanathip Songkrasin (second left) celebrates his goal with teammates.

Chanathip "Messi Jay" Songkrasin hauled crisis-hit Thailand back on track at the Asian Cup with a 1-0 win over Bahrain in their Group A match at the Al-Maktoum Stadium in Dubai.

The victory over Bahrain on Thursday showed the immediate effect of changing the coach, as the War Elephants won only their second match ever in the continental tournament being played in the United Arab Emirates.

Thailand sacked coach Milovan Rajevac following Sunday's 4-1 drubbing to India and appointed his assistant, Sirisak Yodyardthai, as interim coach.

A contingent of Thai fans cheered the turnaround victory at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai. (AP photo)

Sirisak made five changes to the team which lost to India. Thailand also were helped by some wayward finishing from Bahrain, who managed only three shots on target out of 15 attempts, all handled cleanly in the Thai goal.

Thailand grew in confidence as Bahrain failed to translate its dominance into goals, and Chanathip broke the deadlock in the 58th minute after Tristan Do's cross was deflected into his path by Bahrain defender Ahmed Ali Juma.

The body language says it all as 'Messi Jay' begins to celebrate and Bahrain's position players and goalkeeper react to Chanathip's second-half winning goal. (AP photo)

The Consadole Sapporo midfielder's second-half strike was enough for the Thais, but he came close to setting up a second for Thailand when he picked out an unmarked Adisak Kraisorn, who then hit the post.

Thailand's final and toughest group match is next Monday night, when they play the host UAE team in an 11pm (Thailand time) game at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium at Al Ain.

In Thursday's late game, tournament hosts UAE defeated India 2-0 to take over top spot in the group.

Thailand now are tied with India for second spot in Group A, but India have the advantage in goal difference.

That puts the War Elephants on the spot, although the team have several outs.

A win in Monday night's match against the UAE will put them at the top of Group A. But Thailand could advance to the tournament knockout stage with a draw or even a loss, depending on the Bahrain-India match (also at 11pm on Monday) and on the results of other groups.

The goal and other highlights of the Bahrain victory, as seen on TV Thursday evening:

Fifa turned the match political, with a plea for a "humane and speedy resolution" to an extradition case involving Hakeem al-Araibi, a former Kuwaiti national footballer and refugee that has been criticised by human rights groups.

"This situation should not have arisen, in particular, since Mr Al-Araibi now lives and works and plays as a professional footballer in Australia, where he has been accorded refugee status," Fifa said in a statement.


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