DPA /Abu Dhabi
Jordan became the first team to make the knockouts, while Thailand defeated Bahrain 1-0 and hosts UAE beat luckless India 2-0 in the Asian Cup yesterday.
Khalfan Mubarak’s goal against the run of play and Ali Mabkhout’s late strike put hosts UAE top of the group on four points ahead of their final match with Thailand, on three, in Al Ain on Monday.
India, also on three, will rue a series of missed chances as victory in a contest they dominated would have taken them through.
Thailand defeated bottom team Bahrain in Dubai under the guidance of interim boss Sirisak Yodyadthai, who took the reins after previous boss Milovan Rajevac was sacked following a 4-1 disaster in their opener against India.
Elsewhere, Jordan ensured automatic progress with a 2-0 win over Syria in Al Ain thanks to first-half goals from Mousa Suleiman and Tareq Khattab.
Syria are not yet eliminated on one point having drawn with Palestine, who play Australia today. UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni persisted with striker Ali Mabkhout, who spurned various opportunities in the disappointing opening draw with Bahrain, and his faith was justified with a goal and an assist.
Mabkhout coolly killed the game in the last minute by collecting Ali Hassan Salmin’s chip and finishing well.
“It was positive in the second half, but what matters to me is the development from one game to the next one.
The players today have demonstrated very good spirit and will to win,” Zaccheroni said.
“We need to move up from one game to another and this is valid for all teams to win the championship.”
Sunil Chhetri, who bagged a brace against Thailand, missed an immediate chance to equalize as India endured a torrid time in front of goal.
With the game still scoreless, Ashique Kuruniyan was denied one-on-one by Khalid Essa and the keeper also reacted well to save a header from Chhetri.
India watched in agony as Udanta Singh hit the underside of the bar after a smart one-two with Chhetri and a Mohamed Gharib clearance struck the frame of his own goal in added time.
“We had chances to score but didn’t take them,” said goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh. “It happens in football.”
India did have some fortune as Ismail al-Hammadi’s shot rebounded from the woodwork onto Singh and flew just wide of the post.
“They should make the goals a bit bigger, I think,” joked India manager Stephen Constantine, who felt his side “created enough chances, especially in the first half, to win two games.
“I just feel we didn’t convert and paid. A couple of brilliant saves from their keeper and a couple we should have scored.”
Jordan dominated the opening half against Syria and took a deserved lead when Suleiman deflected in Yousef Rawshdeh’s drive in the 26th minute.
Khattab doubled the advantage by heading in a short corner shortly before the break and there was no further scoring in the second period. Jordan can guarantee first place with a draw against Palestine in their final group game on Tuesday. Songkrasin Chanathip scored the only goal, volleying in Tristan Do’s cross just before the hour, to lift a new-look Thailand over Bahrain.
Interim coach Yodyadthai made several changes to the starting 11 and was rewarded, though Bahrain were the better side in the first half.
United Arab Emirates 2 (Mubarak 41, Mabkhout 88) India 0
Bahrain 0 Thailand 1 (Chanathip 58)
Jordan 2 (Suleiman 26, Khattab 43) Syria 0
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