Matchday 2 kicked off in Dubai where Thailand – under new management after their first game humbling at the hands of India – took on Bahrain. Bahrain had more possession and double the amount of shots, but the War Elephants took their opportunity on the break, the brilliant Chanathip Songkrasin scoring the winner in the 58th minute.
Jordan took on Syria in Group B, and The Chivalrous were good value for their 2-0 win, star winger Musa Al-Taamari opening the scoring before Tareq Khattab sealed the win. Syria, meanwhile, sacked coach Bernd Stange after the loss to their local rivals.
Next up, the UAE faced a test in the form of surprise packets India. The Blue Tigers were the better side in the first half, but UAE playmaker Khalfan Mubarak scored against the run of play before halftime, and 2015 top scorer Ali Mabkhout made the lead unassailable in the 88th minute.
Australia faced Palestine on Friday, with the Socceroos desperately needing a win to kick-start their campaign. Jamie Maclaren and Awer Mabil got the green and gold off to a flyer in the first half before substitute Apo Giannou applied the icing with a late header.
The Philippines had held South Korea to just one goal in their first game, and China found it similarly tough until Wu Lei’s stunning curler in the 40th minute. China’s talisman added his second in the 66th with an acrobatic volley, before Yu Dabao rounded out the scoring with a close range header.
South Korea faced another obstinate opponent in Kyrgyzstan, and it took until the 40th minute to break down the Central Asians’ defence – central defender Kim Min-Jae providing the breakthrough with a header from a set piece. Paulo Bento’s side failed to extend their lead, but it mattered not, as the Taegeuk Warriors have two wins from two.
Vietnam could consider themselves unlucky to lose so late against Iraq, and the South-East Asian underdogs faced an even tougher test against Iran. Carlos Queiroz will no doubt be thankful star striker Sardar Azmoun reconsidered his post-World Cup retirement, as the Rubin Kazan man decided the game with a classy double.
Tournament minnows Yemen were up against the odds once more against Iraq, and the Lions of Mesopotamia cruised to a 3-0 win thanks to Mohanad Kadhim, Bashar Resan and Alaa Abbas.
Saudi Arabia did a professional job to see off Lebanon in Group E. Fahad Al-Muwallad opened the scoring in the 12th minute, and Hussain Al Mogahwi wrapped up the 3 points in the 67th.
Qatar easily saw off North Korea in Abu Dhabi, with Sudanese-born striker Almoez Ali scoring an unbelievable four goals in the 6-0 win.
Pim Verbeek’s Oman put up a resilient display against Japan, but a first-half spot kick was enough to secure the win for the Samurai Blue. Genki Haraguchi was the man tasked with scoring from 12 yards, and the midfielder duly buried it in the bottom left corner.
Finally, Uzbekistan produced a stellar first half display to hit a helpless Turkmenistan for four. Eldor Shomurodov stole the headlines with a brace, with Javokhir Sidikov and Jaloliddin Masharipov also on the scoresheet.
With the top two settled in four out of the six groups, attention now turns to who will finish as the top seeds, and who will manage to scrape through as one of the four best third placed sides.