Coach Soukop pleased with Bahrain's rebound
Singapore: Bahrain coach Miroslav Soukop was delighted his players learnt the lessons from their surprise loss against Chinese Taipei to down Singapore on Tuesday and book their tickets for the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
Soukop’s side suffered a shock reversal at the hands of Gary White’s side in Taipei last month when Chinese Taipei came back from a goal down to win 2-1 in added-on time as Bahrain squandered the opportunity to secure passage to the Finals.
But a commanding performance against Singapore delivered a 3-0 win over V. Sundramoorthy’s team and the three points claimed ensured the Bahrainis will finish in one of the top two positions in Group E.
"I was pleased with what I saw in the second half as we learnt from our lessons in Chinese Taipei,” said Soukup. “Our strikers started challenging the defence and began scoring again.
"After having only one or two chances in the first half, I told my players at half-time that they should be more individualistic in the final third instead of stringing passes around.
"Like the previous leg in Bahrain, Singapore sat deep and did not give us much space, while they were a danger in set-plays early in the game.”
The result also ended Singapore’s hopes of a first appearance at the AFC Asian Cup Finals since hosting the tournament back in 1984 and Sundramoorthy lamented the loss of defender Irfan Fandi to injury 58 minutes into the game.
Madhi Abduljabbar scored twice for Bahrain either side of a goal from Jamal Rashid as Bahrain picked up their third win in five qualifiers.
"It was disappointing that we conceded soft goals in the second half,” said Sundramoorthy. “Irfan's enforced departure was critical as he had been solid at the back.
"The game changed following his injury and Bahrain's number 9 (Abduljabbar) had more space to attack us."
Chinese Taipei’s chances of appearing at the Finals also evaporated with their 2-1 loss in Ashgabat against Turkmenistan as White’s side were unable to overturn a two-goal deficit late in the game.
Myrat Yagsyyew and Altymyrat Annadurdyyew scored for Turkmenistan before a Chen Po-liang penalty in the 88th minute gave Chinese Taipei hope of another late rally, but this time the east Asian side fell short.
“We gave our best on the pitch today,” said White. “My team started the game with some good attempts and created some chances, but we couldn’t use these moments.
"Turkmenistan scored when they started to attack.
“We had a good chance to equalise but we didn't take it and then we conceded the second goal.
"We couldn’t take our chances but the players gave their all on the field.”
That win means Turkmenistan join Bahrain in qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup, with the country set to make only their second-ever appearance at the Finals.
“We’re happy with the victory,” said Turkmenistan coach Yazguly Hodjageldiev. “Our target was to win for our fans and the team were able to do it. We began the game very carefully and eventually we started to play better and create some chances.
“It was easier to play after we scored the first goal and even after we scored the second goal we continued to attack and we missed some very good chances.
“But I’m happy with the players. We have qualified for the final stages of the AFC Asian Cup and that was our goal before the start of the qualifiers.”