Thailand’s tight defence leaves Oman with more to do after points shared

January 21 – On a night of frustration, Thailand and Oman shared the points in a goalless group F encounter that sees Masatada Ishii’s team move to four points and inch closer to a second-round ticket. 

Four years ago, Thailand progressed to the round of 16 from a group with the United Arab Emirates, India and Bahrain garnering four points and they could return to the last 16 again after holding Oman in a stalemate of epic proportions. Neither side ever came close to breaking the deadlock, but the result yielded a very valuable point for Thailand, who will play Saudi Arabia in their final group match.

Branko Ivankovic kept faith in the eleven that held on to their 1-0 lead for 78 minutes before conceding twice against Saudi Arabia, confident that they’d come good against Thailand, whose Japanese manager Ishii stuck to the XI that dispatched Kyrgyz Republic in their opener.

Caution prevailed in the opening stages, with both sides sounding each other out, seeking to control the midfield. The Thai were first to offer any danger from a Theerathon Bunmathan corner that central defender Elias Dolah, one of just four players in Thailand’s squad to play abroad, powered toward goal with a header from close range but Omani goalkeeper Ibrahim Al-Mukhaini came to the rescue with a reflex save.

It was a reality check for Ivankovic, who boasted, on the back of the narrow defeat against Saudi Arabia, that his side could match any opponent but up against Thailand’s good organisation and speed in the final third Oman struggled to get a foothold in the match. They swung in crosses to target the Thai box but without much success.

The Omani slowly seized control, even if Thailand restricted them largely to midfield play and so opportunities came at a premium.

Thai number one Patiwat Khammai punched away several corners and at the other end, his counterpart collected Bunmathan’s free-kick that held the middle between a shot and cross all too easily in an illustration of how the sides struggled to create any meaningful goalscoring opportunities.

At least the game was still there for the taking for both teams and after the restart, Thailand had a first sight of goal when Belgium-based Suphanat Mueanta intercepted a cross pass but took too long to get his shot away. Supachai Chaided, the two-goal hero against the Kyrgyz Republic, misdirected his header from the ensuing corner with Al-Mukhaini off his line and stranded in no man’s land.

In the 55th minute, Oman had their first real chance of the match as playmaker Salaah Al-Yahyaei danced his way past two Thai defenders, but from a tight angle it was nigh impossible to score and with an outstretched leg Khammai kept his nets clean.

The match got more stretched, with space opening up in midfield. Oman maintained possession, but they were hardly buzzing with purpose as the Thai kept their shape, content to absorb any pressure. In the 74th minute, Khammai produced a spectacular finger-tip save to deal with Jameel Al-Yahmadi’s free-kick.

Foregoing any ambition of their own, the Thai dropped very deep, inviting Omani danger. Brankovic’s team kept wrestling with their opponents, swinging in crosses without much precision. They lacked spark as a collective and except Al-Yahyaei no player seemed capable of a moment of individual brilliance.

In injury time, Oman threw the kitchen sink at the Southeast Asians, but, like much of the evening, they lacked accuracy and real conviction. On one point, the Omani will need to defeat the Kyrgyz Republic on Thursday to have any chance of getting out of the group.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1711665867labto1711665867ofdlr1711665867owedi1711665867sni@i1711665867tnuk.1711665867ardni1711665867mas1711665867

 


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