Sunday, July 8, 2007

Rain mars Asian Cup opener

Thailand and Iraq kicked off the 14th AFC Asian Cup with a 1-1 draw in front of a half-empty Rajamangala National Stadium.
Thailand opened the scoring through a disputed sixth minute penalty, however Iraq hit back just after the half-hour mark through captain Younis Mahmood's flicked header.
A wild, monsoonal downpour threatened to see the match postponed, as Rajamangala Stadium was bucketed by a ferocious storm two hours before kick-0ff.
The driving rain kept thousands of Thai fans at home, with officials claiming that over 35,000 tickets had been pre-sold, and a further 10,000 expected to buy tickets at the gate.

As it was the opening ceremony took place in front of a virtually empty stadium, with those fans who chose to brave the torrential rain taking their seats just minutes before kick-off.
They were treated to an entertaining first half, which was sparked by a contentious sixth minute penalty awarded by Korean referee Kwon Jong-Chul, for a shove by Iraqi defender Ali Hussein Rehema on Kiatisuk Senamuang. Midfielder Sutee Sukomkit stepped up to cooly dispatch the spot-kick into the bottom left hand corner.
The rest of the half belonged to Iraq, and after Thai goalkeeper Kosin Hathairattnakool had pulled off a series of spectacular saves, he was finally beaten when he charged off his line to meet a floated free-kick, only to see Iraqi playmaker Younis Mahmood beat him in the air.
Thailand had the better of second half proceedings, however the heavy pitch and driving rain meant that both teams had difficulty in sustaining pressure, as the match petered out to a 1-1 draw.
Thailand's next match is against Oman on July 12, whilst Iraq face Australia a day later, in what could be a crucial match for both teams.
The highly fancied Australians kick off their Asian Cup campaign tonight when they face Oman on what will be a heavy Rajamangala pitch.
Copyright © Michael Tuckerman &

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