Thailand played out a tame draw with Iraq at Bangkok’s Rajamangala National Stadium in their Group A Asian Cup opening game on Saturday.
|Thailand's striker Sutee Suksomkit celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Iraq|
Thanks to two remarkable friendly-game victories over China and Qatar, Thailand’s Coach Chanvit said that his side was not afraid of any of the other teams in this year’s Asian Cup; they had their sights set on reaching the semi-finals.
Thailand, the Southeast Asian champions, took the lead in the fifth minute after a dubious penalty was awarded to striker Kiatisuk Senamuang by Korean referee Kwon Jung-Chul, who believed that Iraq’s Ali Rehema had shoved Senamuang to the ground.
Striker Sutee Suksomkit then calmly struck the spot-kick into the left-hand corner of the net.
However, this was all the host side could manage in the first half as Iraq fought back strongly, keeping pressure on them until half time.
Iraqi midfielder Salir Sadwn was not afraid to have a crack at the net from a distance, forcing a marvelous save from Thai goalkeeper Kosin Hathairattanakool in the fifteen minute.
The visitors went close again in the 16th minute when Sadwn's spectacular overhead kick was palmed onto the post by goalkeeper Kosin, as the visitors stepped up the pressure.
Their efforts eventually paid off in the 32nd minute when skipper Younis Mahmoud rose above two Thai defenders to head home Sadwn's looping free kick.
But a tired Iraq were unable to finish off the hosts, with Thailand warming to their task in the second half, as Therdsak Chaiman’s shot flew over the bar in the 56th minute and Datsakorn Thonglao went close to scoring five minutes later.
Substitute Teeratep Winothai nearly sealed victory for the Thai side with five minutes to spare, forcing Iraqi goalkeeper Noor Hassan to push his long-range effort over the bar.
In the end, 1-1 was a fair result leaving both sides with all to play for against fellow Group A teams Australia and Oman.