Thailand overcome Palestine

Thailand overcome Palestine

By Kitinan Sanguansak - AFF Thai correspondent

Thailand’s German coach Winfried Schaefer got his reign off to a winning start with a narrow 1-0 victory over Palestine in the first leg of their World Cup second qualifying round tie at the I-Mobile stadium yesterday.

Thai striker Teerasil Dangda battles with Albahadari Abdallatif

The scoreline provided a false reflection of the game in which the Thais were by far the better team. However, the hosts, somehow, were unable to build on the strong start, which culminated in Jakkaphan Kaewprom’s first-half goal.

The Thais had several chances after the break to build what would be a safe cushion ahead of the Middle East trip and at least should have scored one more goal but Suchao Nutnum saw his spot kick smacking against the upright in stoppage time.

With the Thai team lying in the 123rd place, 44 spots above the visitors in the world’s ranking, the home side headed into the game as favourites to book a berth in the third round, which plays in group format.

There was doubt creeping in to minds on how well the Thais would fare in what was Schaefer’s first competitive game in charge of the team.

Having been appointed as former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson’s successor at the beginning of this month, the German trainer, who built his managerial reputation from the stint at Karlsruher club in his native country, was quickly thrown into the thick of action.

Apart from the time that presented a major constraint, injury woes added to the 61-year-old’s headaches while preparing his new charges. The former Cameroon manager now had to make do without the service of in-form striker Sarayoot Chaikamdee, currently leading the Thailand Premier League’s scoring chart with 12 goals.

Given such state of the Thai team’s preparations, there was a likelihood that the hosts would face tougher task than expected against the Palestine, the same opponents they faced in the controversial tie in the Olympic qualifiers, ending up with the Thais’ disqualification for fielding ineligible player.

However, Schaefer’s men nearly took the lead inside the first minute when Chachrit Buatong broke down the left side before sending a low cross in front of goalmount but Suchao Nutnum failed to make a proper contact and the keeper comfortably gathered the ball.

Thailand threatened again soon afterwards but Suchoa was still unable to direct his effort on target with his backward header from a Datsakorn Thonglao corner, which flew agonisingly wide of the far post.

The visitors visibly struggled to keep pace with the hosts’ high-tempo play and they conceded a freekick in dangerous distance but Datsakorn, known for his deadball expertise, failed even to test the goalie after his effort harmlessly went over the bar.

With the Thais looking threatening every time they made foray into the visitors’ area, it appeared only a matter of when they would open the scoring.

The breakthrough came just after a quarter an hour mark when Jakkaphan Kaewprom, deploying in his unfamiliar role as right back, pounced on poor clearance from Palestine defence before unleashing a powerful shot which took a deflection off a defender on its way to the back of the net.

With the hosts clearly on the ascendant, Schaefer deserved huge credit for transforming his charge in only a short space of time, that were barely unrecognisable from the side that played so poorly under much-maligned Robson.

The home side then were given an indirect freekick after a referee adjusted the keeper to receive a back pass barely six yards out but the chance went begging, with a Datsakorn shot hitting the wall.

With the halftime approaching, lively Chachrit nearly got him name on the scoresheet when the Police United player created space inside the area but fired a tame shot straight at the goalkeeper.

Having weathered the hosts’ onslaught for periods, the visitors nearly conjured up the equalizer out of the blue when Kawin Thamsatchanan spilled a venomous long-range shot before gathering it at second attempt.

In the second half, Schaefer decided to add more firepower by bringing on Buriram PEA striker Kirati Kiewsombat, who received big cheers from the crowd at the club’s home ground, with an aim to establish a healthy advantage to take into the return leg on Thursday.

Despite still enjoying a majority of possession, the Thai side were frustrated by the visitors’ resolute defending. The Thais squandered a golden opportunity to put them in strong position for qualification in dying minutes when Suchao fired his spot kick against the post.

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