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Upsets for Qatar, Saudi Arabia as quartet open brightly

The match

Yemen 2-2 Saudi Arabia
Goals: Mohsen Mohammed 8′, Omar Al Dahi 37′; Hatten Bahebri 23′, Salem Al Dawsari 48′

In Group D, Russia 2018 participants Saudi Arabia twice came from behind to draw against a brave Yemen side. Playing their home game in neutral Bahrain, the Yemenis took an early lead through Mohsen Mohammed but Hatten Bahebri struck midway through the first half to draw the visitors level.

Omar Al Dahi restored the lead for the hosts seven minutes before the break but the Saudis hit back hard, with Salem Al Dawsari capitalising on a rebound to equalise shortly after the restart. Saudi Arabia piled on the pressure in search of a winner, but Yemen held firm to secure a hard-fought point.

In the group’s other match, hosts Singapore leapfrogged Palestine to the top of the section after edging the West Asians 2-1. Shakir Hamzah put the hosts ahead inside four minutes, and although Yasser Hamed drew the visitors level nine minutes later, Safuwan Baharudin struck the match-winning goal six minutes before the break to give his side a vital three points.

The other attractions

In Group A, Marcello Lippi got his second tenure in charge of China PR off to a positive start, overseeing his side’s emphatic 5-0 away win in Maldives. Notably, Brazilian-born Elkeson struck a brace in his first match representing China to help Team Dragon to an opening victory. In the section’s other match, Goran Milojevic’s Philippines put their opening 5-2 loss to Syria behind them by defeating hosts Guam 4-1. The result saw the Azkals get their campaign back on track, while Karl Dodd’s Guam side were plunged into jeopardy after suffering two opening home losses.

Australia showed hosts Kuwait no mercy, firing three unanswered goals past the West Asians in a convincing win in Group B. All three goals were scored in the first half, with Mathew Leckie striking twice before Aaron Mooy sealed the tie on 38 minutes. The section’s other match saw Nepal bounce back from their 7-0 opening loss to Kuwait to bravely win 2-0 in Chinese Taipei, with young forward Anjan Bista striking in each half. The victory gave Johan Kalin’s side a timely morale-booster heading into their next outing against Australia next month, while pointless Chinese Taipei are still searching for their first points.

In Group C, Kamil Al-Aswad struck the only goal on 77 minutes as visiting Bahrain overcame resilient hosts Cambodia. The result, coupled with their 1-1 draw against Iraq in the opener, saw the West Asians move to the top of the group. In the other match, Sardar Azmoun and Karim Ansarifard scored in each half as IR Iran clinched a 2-0 opening win in Hong Kong.

Farshad Noor’s first-half strike against Bangladesh was all that hosts Afghanistan needed to claim their first win in Group E. Despite sharing the spoils with India in a goalless stalemate in the other match, hosts Qatar remain top of the group with four points.

In Group F, Tajikistan overpowered hosts Mongolia with a narrow 1-0 win to secure back-to-back victories this campaign, having edged Kyrgyz Republic in the opener. Davron Ergashev headed home the match-winner nine minutes from time as the Central Asians consolidate their place at the top. The section’s other match saw Japan get their campaign off to a perfect start by winning 2-0 in Myanmar. A pair of first-half goals in the space of ten minutes from Shoya Nakajima and Takumi Minamino gave Hajime Moriyasu’s Samurai Blue a deserved three points.

Supachok Sarachart struck twice during the first half and captain Theerathorn Bunmathan was also on target from a spot-kick as Thailand won 3-0 in Indonesia to go top of Group G. In the other match, Ahmed Mabkhout was the two-goal hero as United Arab Emirates came from behind to see off hosts Malaysia 2-1.

In Group H, Korea DPR maintained their 100 per cent record this campaign, following up their opening 2-0 victory over Lebanon with a solitary-goal victory against hosts Sri Lanka. Defender Jang Kukchol netted the match-winner on 67 minutes to give his side the three points. Korea Republic, meanwhile, sank hosts Turkmenistan 2-0 courtesy of goals from Na Sangho and Jung Wooyoung.

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