Lahore, 7 Nov: The Singapore U-23 football team kicked off their Asian Games football campaign on a good start by holding defending champions Qatar to a 0-0 draw at Ying Dong Stadium, Guangzhou, China, Sunday, November 7, 2010. The Qataris, who won the competition in 2006, dominated for large periods of the game but was denied by the stubborn Singapore defence whole night.
Goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud was undoubtedly the hero as he made a series of good saves in the final 15 minutes to frustrate the Qataris. Despite being without a single threatening shot on goal for the whole game, Singapore nearly made their opponents pay in the fifth minute of injury time when the Qatar keeper rushed out of his goal to close down on substitute Erwan Gurnawan in an one-on-one opportunity.
Erwan managed to get the better of the keeper and attempted a curling effort over him from the left touchline, however the keeper was fast enough to get back to his goal to deny the shot from floating in under his crossbar. In the other group D clash, Kuwait overcame India 2-0.
Bryan Robson gave former England teammate Graham Roberts a harsh introduction to life as Pakistan boss when Thailand whipped Pakistan 6-0 in the teams’ opening match at the Asian Games.The ex-Spurs and Chelsea defender was in charge for the first time since being appointed temporary Pakistan coach, and it wasn’t a pretty sight.
Thonglao Datsakorn and Teerasul Dangda both scored twice in the under-23s match, while Anawin Jujeen and Kirati Keawsombut also got on the scoresheet as the Thais got their medal quest off to an emphatic start.
Sunday’s football action kicked off the world’s second-largest sporting event after the Olympics, five days ahead of the Games’ official start on November 12.
Twenty-four teams are taking part in the under-23s tournament, with the top two and four of the best third-placed sides from the six groups advancing to the round of 16.
It wasn’t so emphatic from defending champions Qatar, who opened their account with a 0-0 draw against Singapore.
Former Senegal and UAE coach Bruno Metsu is at the Qatari helm and is expected to match their achievement from four years ago in Doha, with Sunday’s result not expected to go down well at home.
The United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, were held to a 1-1 draw by Hong Kong. But Kuwait, Oman and Uzbekistan got their tournament off to winning starts with comfortable opening victories.
Kuwait, recently crowned champions of the West Asian football tournament in Jordan, proved too good for India in Group D, winning 2-0 with an early strike from Mohammad Alrashedi setting them on their way. Alazemi Khaled ensured the three points with a fine finish in the 53rd minute.
Uzbekistan cruised past Bangladesh 3-0 in Group E, with first-half goals from Kenja Turaev and Odil Ahmedov putting them firmly in charge before Ivan Nagaev added a late third.
In Group F, which also features Thailand, Oman beat the Maldives 3-0, but they made a meal of it, with two late goals giving the scoreline respectability against the island minnows. Al Moatasim Al-Mukhaini gave the Gulf side the lead on 21 minutes but they failed to capitalise until Abdallah Ai Saadi Waleed made it 2-0 with just two minutes left and Abdulla Saleh Abdul Hadi added a third in injury time.
Asian arch-rivals Japan and China, meanwhile, face each other in a potentially explosive Group A game on Monday amid a simmering diplomatic row and a history of bitter rivalry between fans.
Fans of the two teams will be separated while cameras, banners and bottles containing any liquid will be banned to prevent any “untoward situation”, the Japanese consulate-general in Guangzhou said on its website Sunday.
The warning comes as tensions between the Asian giants persist following Japan’s arrest of a Chinese trawler captain for allegedly ramming Japanese coastguard ships near disputed islands in the East China Sea in September.
At the Asian under-19 football championships in China last month, Japan’s squad were booed and one spectator snatched their national flag from ceremony personnel while their national anthem was played before a match.
Also Monday, South Korea take on cross-country rivals North Korea.
Results on Sunday
Group D: Kuwait 2 India 0; Qatar 0 Singapore 0
Group E: Uzbekistan 3 Bangladesh 0; UAE 1 Hong Kong 1
Group F: Maldives 0 Oman 3; Thailand 6 Pakistan 0