Bhutan, Cambodia and Timor-Leste reached the second round of Asian qualifying for the FIFA World Cup™ for the first time, while Chinese Taipei won 2-0 in Brunei Darussalam to reverse a first-leg loss and join them.
Elsewhere, a goalless draw in Nepal sent India through 2-0 on aggregate, and the Pakistan-Yemen clash was postponed for security reasons. FIFA.com reviews the first round, second-leg action.
Bhutan 2-1 Sri Lanka
Thimphu Chencho Gyeltshen, 5, 90; Zohar Zarwan, 34
Buriram United forward Gyeltshen struck in each half as Bhutan downed Sri Lanka 2-1 at home to progress 3-1 on aggregate. It was a fairytale result for the side positioned bottom of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, eliminating a side 35 places above them and to whom they had lost their previous five encounters.
The visitors entered the return match desperate to reverse their first-leg defeat, but it was the hosts that again caught their strongly favoured rivals off guard, Gyeltshen opening the scoring inside five minutes. Zohar Zarwan drew Sri Lanka level 11 minutes before the break. However, the islanders' hopes were shattered when Gyeltshen scored his second in the last minute.
The other attractions
The matchday’s early game saw Fabio Joaquim's Timor-Leste become the first team to advance, following up their 4-1 home victory with a 1-0 away win. The team accustomed to the balmy south-east Asian weather had to overcome freezing conditions in Ulaan Baatar and determined hosts, but 22-year-old midfielder Fabiano, plying his trade with Kuwait's Kazma, scored the only goal early on.
Stephen Constantine enjoyed a positive return to Nepal, where he began his coaching career at the turn of the century. India looked comfortable throughout and eased through thanks to a 0-0 draw.
Cambodia also cruised through with a stalemate in Macau. Having won the first leg 3-0, Thierry Bin broke the deadlock on 28 minutes to put the outcome of the tie beyond doubt. Leong Ka Hang did equalise for Macau on the stroke of the hour, but it proved a mere consolation.
Elsewhere, a determined Chinese Taipei put their opening defeat behind them by knocking out the ambitious Brunei. In what proved the matchday’s tightest contest, defender Wang Ruei opened the scoring eight minutes before the break to draw the aggregate score level. With so much at stake, forward Chu En-Le scored shortly after the restart to round off the visitors’ comeback victory.
Bhutan stunning the continent was indebted to Gyeltshen. One of the national team's few professionals, the Thailand-based striker showcased his predatory talents by steering the team through, living up to his nickname as ‘The Bhutanese Cristiano Ronaldo’.
4 – A quartet of forwards finished the first round atop of the scoring chart on two goals apiece.
What they said
Stephen Constantine, India coach: "We came here to win but they put us under pressure. The hosts gave everything they had and that speaks of the character of the Nepali people. It is nice to leave with a happy result. In football the outcome always matters and we achieved what we intended.”
First round, second legs
Nepal 0-0 India (0-2)
Mongolia 0-1 Timor-Leste (1-5)
Macau 1-1 Cambodia (1-4)
Brunei Darussalam 0-2 Chinese Taipei (1-2)
Bhutan 2-1 Sri Lanka (3-1)