First-minute strike stuns Thailand (March 27, 2008)



Home defeat massive blow to qualifying bid

TOR CHITTINAND
Thailand's road to South Africa virtually reached an end last night when they lost 1-0 to Oman in a World Cup qualifier at Rajamangala National Stadium.

Ismail Al Ajmi's goal seconds after the kick-off sealed the crucial win for Oman who lost to Thailand 2-0 at the same venue in the 2007 Asian Cup.

Before a near-capacity crowd, Oman soaked up relentless pressure from the Thais who were denied an equaliser by the woodwork and goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi of English Premier League side Bolton Wanderers.

Talal Al Farsi was sent off in injury time for a second bookable offence in a hot-tempered match which saw eight yellow cards _ seven for the visitors.

Thailand also lost their manager Kittiratt Na Ranong who quit after the defeat to shoulder responsibility.

The setback left Thailand rooted to the bottom of Group B after their opening two defeats. The Thais, who were hammered 4-1 by Japan in their opener, now have to win all their remaining four games to stand any chance of progressing to the next qualifying round.

Oman joined Japan and Bahrain on three points before those teams meet in the other match in the group in Manama later last night. Two teams from each group advance to Asia's final qualifying stages for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.


Right after the start, Thai defender Punnarat Klinsukon failed to block a cross by Amad Ali Al Hosni from the right. Al Ajmi penetrated a careless Thai defence to score after just 26 seconds.

It was the worst possible start for Thailand, but they fought back in determined fashion.

Seeking a quick response, the Thais piled on the pressure and Sutee Suksomkit's header hit the bar. The midfielder also saw his free-kick saved by Al Habsi after 15 minutes.

In the second half, as Thailand went on all-out attack Oman packed their defence but were dangerous in counter-attack.

In the 72nd minute, Nataporn Phanrit almost equalised. but his long-range shot was cleared by Al Habsi who was in outstanding form.

Datsakorn Thonglao's free-kick hit the bar, while Oman could have put the matter beyond doubt when Mohamed Rabin Al Nobbi went clear but his strike also hit the bar.

Striker Teerathep Winothai was unmarked just a few yards out but failed to send the ball into the net in the dying moments.

Thailand coach Chanvit Phalajivin refused to throw in the towel and believed his side could still qualify for the next round.

''We still have a chance. We never give up,'' he said.

He said his team made only one error and had full praise for his players. ''I can't blame them. They played very well today,'' he said.

Kittiratt kept his promise that he would step down as manager if Thailand lost. ''I understand the feelings of Thai fans. This is my responsibility,'' he said.

Oman coach Julio Cesar Ribus said Thailand were a strong side and that it was nice to secure an away win that kept alive his side's hopes of progressing to the next round.

GROUP B RESULT & STANDINGS

Thailand 0 Oman 1 (Ishmail Al Ajmi 1)

Japan 1 1 0 0 4 1 3
Bahrain 1 1 0 0 1 0 3
Oman 2 1 0 1 1 1 3
Thailand 2 0 0 2 1 5 0