Thailand were forced to fight back from two goals down to rescue a draw against Iraq in Tuesday’s 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup qualifier at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok.
The reigning ASEAN Football Federation champions went behind after goals from Justin Hikmat Azeez and skipper Younis Mahmoud in the first and second half respectively, but managed to draw level with goals from Theerathon Bunmathan’s and Mongkol Tossakrai in the final ten minutes of the encounter.
Thailand went into the game with 100 percent record after a 1-0 win over Vietnam in their opening game and a 2-0 victory over Chinese Taipei in June.
Iraq have played just one match in this stage of the campaign, thrashing Chinese Taipei 5-1 in Tehran last week.
They were clearly the form side heading into Tuesday’s game and needed less time to find their feet.
Azeez had opened his account for the national team against Taipei and the USA-born, Columbus crew forward needed just 35 minutes to grab his second and put Iraq in the lead.
Thailand were able to contain the visitors for what remained of the first half, but Mahmoud doubled the lead just four minutes into the second.
After a rash of substitutions, the hosts were finally able to pry open the Iraq defence to win a penalty, and Bunmathan stepped up to stroke the ball into the net and halve the deficit.
The comeback was completed just three minutes later when Tossakrai netted the equalizer to steal a share of the spoils for Thailand.
The draw sees Thailand retain top spot in Group F on seven points, with Iraq second on four points, Vietnam third with three and Chinese Taipei last with none.
Iraq will visit Hanoi for their next game against Vietnam in October, while Thailand will play their second game against the Golden Stars just three days later at the same venue.