[top photo: Thailand's Datsakorn Thonglao shielding the ball from Mustafic Fahrudin and Muhammad Ridhuan.]
SINGAPORE was beaten 3-1 by Thailand in a 2011 Asian Cup qualifier played here on Saturday night.
The Thai side drew first blood in the Group E match, after Sutee Suksomkit converted on a penalty 11 minutes into the game, following a ball handling by Noh Alam Shah inside the box.
In the 75th minute, Thardsak Chaiman scored to send Thailand to an exuberant 2-0 lead. Shortly after, Suksomkit bagged his second goal in the 81st minute.
Singapore's Mustafic Fahrudin made good on a penalty in the 84th minute, giving the local fans something to cheer about. -AsiaOne
Robson gets first win as Thai coach
The victory marks former England captain Bryan Robson's first win in a competitive match as Thailand coach
Thailand is now on the top of Group E on five points from three games.
The other teams in the group, Iran and Jordan, play later Saturday with only the top two qualifying for the Asian Cup finals in Qatar.
A win for Iran is seen as critical, with coach Afshin Ghotbi under pressure after they failed to qualify for the World Cup and the country's fanatical fans expect nothing less than victory.
Former Middlesbrough and West Brom manager Robson, who took over from Peter Reid in September, has instilled a cohesion in Thailand in the short time he has been there and they ran Singapore ragged.
Their movement was excellent and bodes well for the return leg in Bangkok on Wednesday, where Raddy Avramovic knows his side must win to keep alive any hopes they have of making their first Asian Cup.
Singapore have three points from three games.
Elsewhere, Uzbekistan proved too good for Malaysia in Tashkent, winning 3-1 with Asian player of the year Server Djeparov among those finding the target.
The Uzbekis have now won their opening two games in Group C, which only comprises three teams after India, who were drawn in the group, automatically qualified for the finals by winning the AFC Challenge Cup last year.
Malaysia have no points from two games while the UAE are second with three points.
In Hanoi, Henrique Calisto will be furious with his Vietnamese players after they conceeded a goal in stoppage to crash 1-0 to Group D leaders Syria.
Vietnam desperately needed to pick up points with just two on the board from three games following a demoralising 6-1 defeat in China last time out.
They will be hoping Lebanon produce an upset and beat perennial underchievers China later Saturday.
In other games, Australia, who have qualified for next year's World Cup, have a full-strength team for their showdown with Oman.
A win in Muscat will put Pim Verbeek's team in a strong position as they look to make their second Asian Cup, after an unconvincing debut in 2007.
In the other match in their group, Indonesia must pick up points against Kuwait but are struggling, with injury ruling out defender Ricardo Salampessy. -AFP