AFC Asian Cup 2019, India vs Thailand: India Begins With a 4-1 Victory

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Image Source: ZEE NEWS

Sunday’s AFC Asian Cup fixture between India and Thailand was always going to be an intriguing affair and it rarely disappointed.

It was India’s veteran striker Sunil Chhetri who set the turf on fire as he bagged two well-taken goals that steered India to an astounding 4-1 win against Thailand in their opening fixture at the Al Nahyan Stadium.

The incredible win also propelled India to the top of the Group A since UAE and Bahrain drew the day before. Chhetri’s double saw him overtake Argentina’s Lionel Messi as the world’s second-highest active goalscorer. He is now only behind Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and is already India’s highest scorer.

First Half

Pune City FC’s 21-year-old forward Ashique Kuruniyan was simply flawless in the proceedings. The footballer showed great intent for attacking and constantly sprinted down the left flank. His antiques where a headache for the Thai defence, leaving them scrambling for cover. It was Kuruniyan’s persistence that paid off as he won the Blue Tigers a penalty in the 26th minute.

Sunil Chhetri played the ball to Kuruniyan which he struck. The humble shot just about managed to clip Theerathon Bunmathan’s hand. Consequently, the referee straight away pointed to the spot which culminated with Chhetri slotting home into the left bottom corner.

The lead did not put Thailand down since they bounced back with a leveler within seven minutes. Bunmathan delivered a teasing ball to skipper Teerasil Dangda, who in turn diverted it skillfully it past Indian captain Gurpreet Singh Sandhu through a beautiful header.

That goal seemed to give the Thai attack significant confidence which was evident in their repeated endeavours into the opposition box. Nonetheless, the Indian defence persevered to hold on.

Second Half

The Blue Tigers couldn’t have asked for a better to the second half. The first play of the half saw the Stephen Constantine’s men break into a stunning counter as Udanta Singh raced down the right flank.

He then neatly hit a low cross into the box that met Kuruniyan. The latter then forwarded it on his left for the onrushing Chhetri. The skipper, with a sharp first-time attempt, shot it in the top left corner of the net past a helpless Thai keeper.

The goal breathed life in the Indians, who attacked with new-found confidence. They further extended their lead with their next goal in the 68th minute when the Chhetri again played a vital role to latch Udanta on to the goal. Failing to dribble past the Thai defence, Udanta passed back for Anirudh Thapa. Thapa, who was the youngest Indian on the pitch, chipped the ball with sublime effort past the custodian.

Having already secured a 2-goal. the Indian gaffer decided to introduce Jeje Lalpekhlua in the latter stages of the match. The substitute made an instant as he found the left top corner with a scrumptious instep shot. The win handed India their biggest-ever win in the Asia Cup.

The cherry on the cake was the fact that India moved 2 spots up to 95th position in the FIFA rankings after the match. Thailand, on the other hand, dipped 4 spots to 122nd spot in the rankings with 1144.84 points.

Final Results

Group A: India (Sunil Chhetri 27’(P), 46’ | Anirudh Thapa 68’, Jeje Lalpekhlua 80’) 4-1 Thailand (Teerasil Dangda 33’)

Bahrain (Mohd. Al Romaihi 78) 1-1 UAE 1 (Ahmed Khalil 88’ (P))

Group B: Jordan 1 (Anas Bani Yaseen 26’) bt Australia 0.

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Monish Gadiya is a Pune-based sports author and designer at KreedOn. He is a thorough tech-enthusiast and believes that innovation is the answer to the problems prevalent in the society. Monish graduated from University of Pune with a degree in civil engineering before pursuing a post-graduate diploma course in intellectual property rights. A die-hard football fan, he has represented his college at various football competitions.

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