ABU DHABI, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- The United Arab Emirates, Thailand and Bahrain advanced to the round of 16 knockouts from Group A of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 on Monday at the expense of India who finished fourth with three points and were sent packed.
In the last round of the Group A competitions which kicked off simoultaneously, hosts UAE tied 1-1 with Thailand to finish first with five points. Bahrain upset India 1-0 with an injury-time penalty to clinch equal four points with Thailand and goal difference advantage.
But according to the tournament's regulations, if teams get the same points in group standings, they will be graded firstly by their head-to-head results in the group. Therefore, Thailand, who beat Bahrain 1-0 in the second round, finished second in Group A and Bahrain third.
As it is the first time for the AFC Asian Cup to feature 24 teams instead of 16 teams, the top two finishers of the six 4-team groups plus the best four third finishers will qualify for the round of 16 knockout stage. So far, the potential third finishers of Group C,D,E,F can collect three points at most. Then Bahrain have already survived as one of the best four third finishers.
At Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, Ali Mabkhout put the UAE ahead after seven minutes, but Thitiphan Puangjan struck the equalizer to earn the Thais the crucial point.
The UAE have qualified for the knockout phase for the second tournament in a row, and Thailand will be featuring in the next round for the first time since reaching the semifinals in 1972.
The hosts made the perfect start when, with many in the crowd of almost 18,000 still finding their seats, they hit the back of Siwarak Tedsungnoen's goal.
Ismail Al Hammadi burst into the area and attempted to clip the ball over the Thai keeper, only for the ball to come back off the crossbar. But Mabkhout rose to head home the rebound from inside the six-yard box.
That was just a preview to the danger posed by Chanathip and, with four minutes left in the half, the Consadole Sapporo midfielder unlocked the UAE defence to secure the equalizer.
The midfielder's deft ball into the area caused Mohamed Ahmad to panic and, in the ensuing mix-up, Thitiphan Puangjan slipped the ball past Eisa, with his strike delighting the vociferous band of Thais at the far end of the stadium.
Meanwhile, India suffered early problems at the back when Anas Edathodika was forced off with an injury in the fourth minute and was replaced with Salam Ranjan Singh.
Bahrain then applied pressure on the Blue Tigers' defence as goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was called into action three minutes later when he saved Sayed Dhiya Saeed's left footed shot from outside the box.
India were able to calm their nerves and responded in the 20th minute with Sunil Chhetri coming close to scoring for Stephen Constantine's side but the striker failed to steer Gurpreet Singh's long pass home.
Bahrain were the more dangerous side but wasted chances with Jamal Rashed and Sayed Dhiya Saeed both failing to find the mark with long-range efforts.
The West Asians had a glimpse at goal in the 61st minute but Komail Alaswad failed to get his effort from outside the box on target.
As the minutes ticked away, Bahrain turned on the pressure and came close when substitute Mohamed Marhoon looked to have scored, only for the woodwork to deny him.
India continued to repel Bahrain's advances but finally conceded a penalty late in the game after Hamed Alshamsan was brought down by Pronay Halder.
Rashed made no mistake from the spot, sending Gurpreet Singh the wrong way as Bahrain claimed the three points.