AFC U23 Championship Review: Thailand take point in tournament bow

Thailand proved they would not be easily brushed aside as Inpinit Pinyo’s late equaliser and a first-half penalty save by Somporn Yos helped to secure a point in a 1-1 draw against Saudi Arabia.

Kiatisuk Senamuang’s side had been almost left to rue a series of missed chances – especially in the first half – during their AFC Under-23 Championship opener when Mohammad Al Saiari gave the Saudis the lead with only 19 minutes to go, only for Inpinit to level in the 84th minute.

The point was no less than Thailand deserved after an energetic performance that saw the Saudi defence forced into a number of errors that gifted possession to the Southeast Asian side in dangerous positions, but with the latter proving incapable of capitalising till the death.

Somporn was on hand in the 12th minute to push Mustafa Al Bassas’s penalty onto his crossbar after Adison Promrak had brought down Al Saiari in the area and, 15 minutes later, he made another fine stop to deny Fahad Al Muwallad.

But the Thais had chances to take the lead themselves but were left bemoaning squandered opportunities when Al Saiari put the Saudis in front. Inpinit finally found the back of the net with a fine goal on the break to ensure Thailand go into the second round of fixtures in a solid position after Japan had defeated North Korea 1-0 earlier in the day.

“We came here with the expectation of taking three points, but one point isn’t that bad especially if we look forward to when we face Korea DPR and they have no points at all. So we’ll have to see what happens in the next game against Japan,” said Kiatisuk.

“We showed that we can play competitively in this competition, so I feel we have a really good chance in this tournament, especially when you see Japan only beat North Korea by one goal. The opportunity is still there for all the teams and we look forward to playing our next game.”

The draw left the Thais in joint second place in Group B behind the Japanese while hosts Qatar lead the way in Group A after their impressive second half showing against China earned them a 3-1 win.

Iran are just behind on goals scored following their 2-0 success against Syria, with Arsalan Motahhari in particularly impressive form.

South Korea, bronze medallists at the 2012 Olympics in London, won their battle with Uzbekistan in Group C thanks for a pair of goals from Moon Chang-jin and defending champions Iraq also had a winning start, prevailing 2-0 against Yemen.

Photo: Asian Football Confederation