Timor Leste 4-1 Mongolia
A packed crowd at Timor Leste’s Dili Municipal Stadium had plenty to celebrate as their team romped through Mongolia in the first qualifier for the 2018 World Cup.
All four of the home team’s goals came early or late; striker Chiquito notched a brace by the 7th minute, while teammates Rodrigo Silva and substitute Jairo Neto added to the total in the 84th and 85th minutes respectively.
Erkhembayar Batmunkh’s 87th-minute strike gave the visitors something to cheer about, but it is clear that the East Asian side will have a considerable challenge in front of them when they seek to overcome the three-goal deficit next week in Ulan Bator.
Sri Lanka 0-1 Bhutan
Bhutan won their first ever World Cup Qualifier match with a solitary goal, shocking a confident Sri Lanka side that had last triumphed 5-2 over the landlocked nation.
Despite not having played a senior international since the two nations’ last encounter 18 months prior, the Druk Eleven took a much younger side to Colombo and brought home an important away goal for the second leg through Tshering Dorji in the 86th minute.
The 19-year-old found himself unmarked as the ball bounced to him after Hari Gurung launched Bhutan on a counter attack and lashed home towards the far post, to delight the small yet vocal crowd of Bhutanese fans in the stands.
Chinese Taipei 0-1 Brunei
Brunei recorded a shock 1-0 win over Chinese Taipei, setting themselves up for a perfect challenge in the return leg at Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium.
The sovereign state scored the important goal through Adi Said in the 36th minute and held on to record their first ever World Cup Qualifier win and first goal in qualifiers since qualification for the 1976 tournament.
The 24-year-old Singapore league forward launched a cross towards the box, with its high trajectory misjudged by goalkeeper Chiu Yu-Hung before the ball skipped off the shoulder of Taiwanese midfielder Chen Yi-Wei and into the net.
Cambodia 3-0 Macau
Played in front of a vocal home crowd in Phnom Penh, Cambodia attacked from the outset and caused trouble for the Macau defence right from kick off. Soeuy Visal came close to opening the scoring early on but saw his header flash just wide of the post, while midfielder Sos Suhana put his volleyed effort just wide of the post as Cambodia pressed to find the opener in a dominant first half display.
They would have to wait until just after the hour mark to break the deadlock when substitute Chan Vathanaka pounced on a loose ball in the box to round Ho Man Fai and tap home the opening goal, sending the full house at Army Stadium wild. A brilliant free kick from the edge of the box fifteen minutes later sealed his brace and doubled the Angkor Warriors lead.
The exclamation mark was stamped on the win when captain Khuon Laboravy headed home a third in the fifth minute of injury time to put one foot in the second round of qualifying ahead of the second leg next week.
India 2-0 Nepal
India will head to the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu with a two-goal advantage after a comfortable 2-0 victory over their rivals. The home side dominated the encounter, restricting Nepal to counter attack opportunities, but still struggled themselves to create clear goal scoring chances.
The opener came after a turnover in midfield from Nepal, with former captain Sunil Chhetri firing home with his left foot past the outstretched hands of Kiran Chemjong. Substitute Jackichand Singh put the ball into the back of the next not long after, but the referee called it back for a foul in the build up.
A second did come, with Chhetri again the scorer, this time smashing the ball home in the opposite corner with his right boot in what was almost a carbon copy of his first goal.
Yemen 3-1 Pakistan
Despite a small crowd of neutral fans in Doha, Yemen cruised to a 3-1 victory over Pakistan to put themselves within arm’s reach of a spot in the group stage.
It took just minutes from the opening kickoff for Yemen to find the advantage after Pakistan goalkeeper Muzammil Hussain fouled Aiman Al-Hagri in the penalty area. Ahmed Ali Al-Hifi’s ensuing penalty kick was blocked, but Abdulwasea Al Matari was quick to head in the rebound.
Mohammad Boqshan header off a 56th-minute corner kick doubled the West Asian side’s lead, and Hassan Bashir’s 67th-minute penalty kick for Pakistan was of little consolation after Ala’a Al Sasi converted a free kick for Yemen’s third and final goal of the night.
(Reports contributed by Paul Williams, Ryan Steele, and Dan Orlowitz)