Asian Cup: Jordan reach knockout stage, Syria sack coach Bernd Stange

Jordan have made it two out of two, beating Syria to clinch a place in the round of 16. Syria responded by firing their German coach. Thailand got past Bahrain to keep alive their chances of reaching the knockout phase.

Jordan 2 - 0 Syria
(Suleiman 16', Khattab 43')

Jordan on Thursday became the first team to reach the knockout phase of the 2019 Asian Cup in the Unted Arab Emirates, earning a 2-0 win over Syria. First-half goals from Mousa Suleiman and Tareq Khattab in Al Ain ensured Jordan, who defeated titleholders Australia in their opening game, will finish in the top two of Group B.

Despite the defeat, Syria are still alive in the tournament, having earned a single point by playing Palestine to a scoreless draw in Sharjah on Sunday. Syria next face Australia in Al-Ain on Tuesday.

Syria sack their coach

However, they will do so without their 70-year-old German coach, Bernd Stange, who was sacked shortly after Thursday's match.

"The Syrian Arab Football Federation has decided to dismiss coach Bernd Stange," read a statement posted on the organization's Facebook page. It added that former national coach Fajr Ibrahim would take charge for the Australia match.

"Coaches are always responsible for the performance of this team," Stange said after learning of the news. "We're extremely disappointed because we wanted to get into the next round for the first time. Today was a big disappointment but I will never blame one player or group of players. Of course the coach is responsible."

Stange is the second coach to be sacked in the first week of this Asian Cup aber Thailand gave their Serbian coach, Milovan Rajevac, the boot after he War Elephants' 4-1 defeat to India. They recovered to beat Bahrain 1-0 on Thursday.

Bahrain 0 - 1 Thailand
(Songkrasin 58')

Consadole Sapporo midfielder Chanathip Songkrasin's strike in the 58th minute was the only goal Thailand would need to get right back into mix in Group A, following their 4-1 drubbing at the hands of India in their first contest on Sunday. The win was just the War Elephants' second in the 22 matches they have played in their Asian Cup history and temporarily moved them up to second place in the group.

Following the hammering they had taken on Sunday, Thailand sacked their Serbian coach, Milovan Rajevac, and replaced him with assistant Sirisak Yodyardthai on an interim basis. Sirisak made five changes to the team that had lost to India, and Thailand, who had conceded four goals in each of their previous two matches, managed to keep only their second clean sheet in their last 14 Asian Cup games.

FIFA call for resolution of Al-Araibi case

The meeting of Thailand and Bahrain on the pitch came a day after FIFA had issued a fresh plea for a "humane and speedy resolution" to an extradition case involving a footballer, which has been criticized by human rights groups.

Hakeem Al-Araibi, a former Bahrain national team player, was granted refugee status in Australia last year after fleeing his homeland, where he says he was persecuted and tortured. He was arrested while vacationing in Thailand in November on an Interpol notice in which Bahrain sought his custody after he was sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalizing a police station. Al-Araibi denies the charge.

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India 0 - 2 United Arab Emirates
(Mubarak 41', Mabkhout 88')

In the late game, the hosts, the United Arab Emirates beat India 2-0 in Abu Dhabi to close in on a berth in the last 16 after withstanding some early pressure from their opponents. 

Khalfan Mubarak opened the scoring just before the break, taking a pass from Ali Mabkhout at the edge of the area before barging past a couple of Indian defenders and beating the keeper just under the bar. Mabkhout secured the win with his late goal, taking down a long pass just inside the box, putting a move on the last Indian defender and finishing nicely to the right of the keeper. 

The Indians squandered several good opportunities to get on the scoreboard throughout the contest. The UAE,  who were fortunate to scrape a 1-1 draw in their curtain-raiser against Bahrain after a controversial late penalty last Saturday, now lead Group A with four points, ahead of India and Thailand, who are both on three.

pfd/mp (AFP, AP, Reuters)