BANGKOK, Nov 18 (Reuters) Surayuth Chaikamdee scored his seventh goal in four matches to help Thailand beat Yemen 1-0 today and earn a place in the third round of qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup.
Surayuth, who in July was dropped from the Thais' Asian Cup squad, put the hosts ahead on 16 minutes when he fired a bullet header into the roof of the net from eight metres after captain Tawan Sripan found him unmarked in the area.
Thailand went through 2-1 on aggregate and were joined by arch-rivals Singapore, who secured a 1-1 draw with Tajikistan to progress 3-1 on aggregate, even though nine of their players were suffering from acute stomach pains.
With Bangkok's Supachalasai stadium packed with raucous fans eager to catch a glimpse of Thailand's trio of new Manchester City signings, the hosts dominated the match.
Goal-hungry Surayuth almost bagged his second when he struck the post from close range on the stroke of halftime and Sutee Suksomkit could have made it two on the hour mark when his goalbound effort was blocked.
Yemeni goalkeeper Salem Saeed pulled off a fine save four minutes later to deny Nirut Surasiang and Surayuth and Datsakorn Thonglao both came close in the final minutes with the crossbar and some acrobatics from Saeed keeping the score down.
EXCITING MATCH ''It was an exciting match, this team did very well,'' Thai coach Charnwit Polcheewin told reporters.
''We had so many chances, Yemen... were tough to play against.
''Our target is to get through to the fourth round and we have to start preparing for that now.'' Yemen's assistant coach, Ahmad Sari, said head coach Muhsin Saleh's heart attack two days ago had affected the players.
''We had our chance to qualify and we lost it,'' Sari said.
''We had a hard match and our coach's condition was a problem for many of the players. We are very worried about him.'' In Dushanbe, Jamshed Ismailov gave Tajikistan an early lead but their hopes of qualifying faded in the 27th minute when prolific Singaporean striker Noh Alam Shah found the net.
Coach Radojko Avramovic said his side deserved to go through and the players did well to overcome what he believed was food poisoning picked up in Tajikistan.
''It was a good result, nine of my players were sick during the trip and we still managed to play well,'' he told Reuters by telephone.
''We deserved to go through. We played tough and got the result we needed.'' Singapore and Thailand advance to round three of the Asian qualifiers, where 20 teams -- including seeds Australia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Iran -- will be split into five groups of four, with winners and runners-up progressing.
Asia has four berths at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, with a possible fifth up for grabs in a playoff with Oceania's top finisher.
REUTERS AB RN2040