'Good start' for War Elephants

'Good start' for War Elephants

Thailand's Teerasil Dangda celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against the Maldives on Wednesday.
Thailand's Teerasil Dangda celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against the Maldives on Wednesday.

Thailand coach Mano Polking looked relieved after the War Elephants picked up three points from their first game of the 2023 Asian Cup qualifying tournament, defeating the Maldives 3-0 on Wednesday in Namangan, Uzbekistan.

The Thais will play their next Group C match on Tuesday against 205th-ranked Sri Lanka, who were beaten by hosts Uzbekistan by the same scoreline on Wednesday.

The six group winners and five best runners-up from qualifying events will reach the 2023 finals.

Polking praised his team's performance in the victory over the Maldives, ensured by goals from Sarach Yooyen and Teerasil Dangda late in the first half with the third added to the tally by Pansa Hemviboon in the 80th minute.

"It's a good start for our team," said Polking after the match.

"We played according to the plan and were able to score two goals before half-time, which was very important.

"We knew that it would be a tight match because they [the Maldives] would concentrate on defending.

"After scoring two goals, we changed some players to keep the key members of the starting line-up fresh for the next game against Sri Lanka.

"We did not attempt anything special and the opponents played the way we expected them to play.

"However, it will be different when we take on Uzbekistan in our last match -- they are the strongest team here and are favourites to win this group.

"But we have to tackle Sri Lanka first."

Thailand almost scored the opener in the 18th minute when Theerathon Bunmathan found Sarach inside the six-yard-box and the midfielder sent a cross to Thitiphan Puangchan, who failed to get his header on target.

The Thais continued to put Maldives under pressure with Teerasil coming close two minutes later when he planted his shot just wide from the edge of the box.

Pathompol Charoenrattanapirom missed another opportunity with his effort in the 24th minute.

Thailand sat deep in the second half, allowing Maldives to have more of the ball but the South Asian side failed to find the breakthrough needed to pull themselves back into the tie.

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