History was made on several counts on Thursday as 12 Asian nations kicked off the road to Russia 2018 in the first round of World Cup qualifiers.
Timor Leste and Brunei Darussalam recorded the first ever qualifying wins after consecutive losses in previous editions, while Bhutan enjoyed a fairy-tale start in their first appearance in the competition.
It is just half time, so all of us have to be focused and ensure proper recovery as soon as possible before the second leg
In Colombo, Tshering Dorji wrote himself into the record books when he fired home inside the box to score his nation’s first goal and seal their maiden win against hosts Sri Lanka.
Having suffered four consecutive losses in the past two editions of qualifying, Timor Leste have one foot into the next round after they thumped Mongolia 4-1 in Dili.
Quito bagged a brace within the first 10 minutes to put the hosts in a commanding position, with Rodrigo Silva and Jairo Neto able to seal the win in the closing moments.
Batmönkhiin Erkhembayar scored an away goal with three minutes remaining to reduce the deficit, but the Mongolians would face an uphill task to overturn the deficit in Ulan Baatar next Tuesday.
After an absence of 12 years, Brunei returned to World Cup qualifying in style as they stunned Chinese Taipei with a 1-0 win at Kaohsiung.
Adi Said pressured goalkeeper Chiu Yu-Heng into making a mistake as he scored off an Awangku Fakharrazi cross from the right against the run of play on 36 minutes.
Goalkeeper Wardun Yussof also pulled off at least five important saves as a disciplined Tebuan side held off the Taiwanese pressure to ensure Mike Wong made history as the first Singaporean coach to win a continental qualifier with an overseas national team.
The former Singapore assistant coach was pleased to get the win, but cautioned against early celebrations with the second leg still to play in Bandar Seri Begawan on Tuesday.
“I am really happy but the job is not complete till Tuesday,” he told FourFourTwo in a post-match interview.
“We just have to be keep our feet on the ground and everyone in the team has to believe in one another that we can qualify.
“It is just half time, so all of us have to be focused and ensure proper recovery as soon as possible before the second leg.”
Cambodia ensured it would be a good evening in the office for Southeast Asian teams as they made light work of East Asian side Macau in their 3-0 win at Phnom Penh.
After a goalless first half, Chan Vathanaka came off the bench to score a brace as skipper Khoun Laborvay completed the scoring with a header off a corner in injury time.
Former Kansas City Wizards winger Sunil Chhetri also netted two goals in the second half to help hosts India overcome stubborn resistance from Nepal in Guwahati.
Yemen wrapped up the day’s first leg action in Doha with a 3-1 home win over Pakistan. Abdulwasea Al Matari put the Yemenis ahead after just three minutes before Mohammed Boqshan extended the lead before the hour mark.
Hassan Bashir reduced the deficit from the spot after 67 minutes but Ala Al Sasi restored the two-goal cushion two minutes later to put them in a commanding position for the next leg.