Buoyed by a strong display that enabled them to get their campaign off to a winning start with a 3-1 win over Costa Rica, early pace-setters Thailand, who has failed to survive the group stage in three previous appearances in the Cup finals, stood a good chance of reaching the last-16 round.
Key to the Thais’ chances of recording a second win was star forward Suphawut Thueanklang after a strong performance on Thursday, which saw him set up one goal and score another himself with a sweet volley from an almost impossible angle.
With the backing of a partisan crowd, the hosts were quick out of the blocks, testing the visiting keeper with two on-target shots in quick succession. Suphawut got his first chance soon afterwards but the goalie foiled his shot from an acute angle.
The visitors, who fielded all but the keeper from the same club back home in the starting line-up, stunned the vocal crowd when they took the lead in fortunate fashion following a howler from the home goalie.
Surapong Tompa, deputising for injured Prakit Dankhunthod, looked to have no trouble in collecting the ball in the air but somehow let it slip through his fingers and Denys Ovsiannikov gratefully side-footed home into the empty net.
After watching the hosts come close to an equaliser with a shot against the bar, the home fans were left shaking their heads after the visitors managed to double the lead when they rushed instantly up the field in the next move. Sergiy Cheporniuk finished off a quick break on the left side with a rising shot into the top corner from a tight angle.
Having struggled to cope with the visitors’ pace and slick movement, the hosts soon found themselves further behind when Ievgen Rogachov cut in from the left before dispatching a shot inside the far post.
A nice interplay between Ovsiannikov and Maksym Pavlenko in front of the box ended up with Rogachov tapping home at the far post from the latter’s delivery. There was still time for Pavlenko to round off the Ukrainians’ superb first half display with a fifth.
Kritsada Wongkaeo gave the home fans something to cheer about when he powered home a low shot into the back of the net from a free kick. And Suphawut clawed another goal back from a penalty before Jirawat Sornwichian scored the home team’s third with a good individual effort.
But it was too little too late and the visitors hung on to win. In the group’s other match, Costa Rica recovered from a half-time deficit to secure a stunning 6-3 victory over Paraguay.