Matchday Four: Five Takeaways
Kuala Lumpur: If Matchday Three of the Asian Qualifiers was about goalscoring heroes, Matchday Four had upsets, shut-outs, strikers who just can't stop finding the back of the net and more.
As the players head back to their clubs and the national team head coaches start planning for the November International Window - when two more Matchdays will be held - the-AFC.com picks five takeways from Tuesday.
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Al Soma the goal scoring machine
Syria have a perfect record of three wins and Omar Al Soma has played a pivotal role in all three triumphs as his team sit at the top of Group A.
He helped himself to a brace in the West Asian side's 5-2 win over Philippines on Matchday One, scored both as Syria edged Maldives 2-1 in their second match and moved to the top of the Asian Qualifiers scoring charts with a hat-trick against Guam on Tuesday.
The Al Ahli SC striker's goals will be crucial as Syria eye a place in the next round of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and an automatic berth in the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.
World class show by Etheridge
A big result on Tuesday was Philippines shutting out the much-vaunted China PR strikeforce led by Elkeson and Wu Lei.
The hosts of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 had plundered 12 goals in their opening two matches but couldn't break down a Philippines defensive wall marshalled superbly by goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
The Cardiff City custodian was making his comeback to the national set-up after having missed the opening two matches and didn't foot a wrong in a Man-of-the-Match performance which helped Philippines pick up a valuable point against China following the goalless draw.
Bahrain's dream run continues
Helio Sousa's Bahrain haven't taken their foot off the pedal since lifting the 2019 WAFF Cup in August as they stopped Islamic Republic of Iran's FIFA World Cup Qualifying unbeaten run at 23 matches on Tuesday.
Mohamad Al Hardan may have been the goal scoring hero, cooly slotting home a spot-kick in the 65th minute, but it was a team effort that defeated Iran - who had beaten Cambodia 14-0 just five days earlier.
Bahrain sit on seven points, second behind Iraq on goal difference, and they will be optimistic of their chances against Hong Kong and Iraq in November.
Vadim Abramov steadies Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan's 2-0 opening day defeat to Palestine has been forgotten and it is all due to head coach Vadim Abramov.
The Central Asians turned to him as Hector Cuper's replacement and Abramov has guided Uzbekistan to consecutive wins over Yemen and Singapore, results which have propelled them to the top of Group D.
Up next will be Saudi Arabia at home on November 14 and a third win will surely convince the Uzbekistan fans that giving Abramov a second stint - he served as head coach in 2010-12 - was a brilliant decision.
Akira Nishino moulding Thailand
Akira Nishino had a plan when he agreed to become Thailand head coach and on Tuesday, his side showed just where the former Japan mentor wants them to be - top of the Asian pile.
Thailand defeated a strong United Arab Emirates side 2-1 at the Thammasat Stadium and the win could have been by a wider margin as the Southeast Asians dominated the tie.
The three points mean Thailand ended Matchday Four top of Group G, ahead of Vietnam on goal difference, and they will head into November's Southeast Asian derbies against Malaysia and Vietnam with their confidence boosted.
UAE may have suffered their first defeat but as long as record goalscorer Ali Mabkhout is in the team, the West Asians will always have a chance as the striker's goal against Thailand was his sixth goal of the Asian Qualifiers campaign.
Palestine produced another resilient performance to hold Saudi Arabia to a scoreless draw in Group D, a commendable result against the three-time AFC Asian Cup winners.
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