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India opened their AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign with a stunning 4-1 victory over Thailand in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. A brace from skipper Sunil Chhetri and goals from Anirudh Thapa and Jeje Lalpekhlua ensured India won the match by a margin of three goals and go on top of group A. In a game which lived up to its hype, it was an evenly matched first half after which the Blue Tigers decimated their opponents in the final 45 mins and open their account with three crucial points.
India took the lead in the 27th minute of the match as Sunil Chhetri converted from the spot. However, it wasn’t long before Thailand hit back through Teerasil Dangda.
But the scenario changed completely after the break, as Chhetri scored India’s second goal in the opening minutes of the second half. A cheeky finish by Anirudh Thapa saw India scored their third goal of the match before Jeje put the game to bed in the 80th minute with a smart toe-poke.
Earlier in the first half, the War Elephants dominated possession and created more chances. It took a brilliant save from Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to deny Thailand from scoring the opener in the 20th minute of the match. However, Sunil Chhetri and Co, ranked 97 in the world, did not panic and kept attacking whenever the opportunity presented itself. Udanta, Ashique, Thapa, Narzary were outstanding. Udanta with his speed making all the difference.
For Thailand, it was a night to forget as they were repeatedly found out in defence. Several aerial balls were cleared but kept falling to the oppositions feet. Despite enjoying a major share of possession, Thailand failed to take more number of shots on goal which ultimately cost them the match.
Meanwhile, speaking after the match a delighted Chhetri said, “I said it before, we are not easy to play against. We are not the most technical team but we never stop fighting and that’s why we won tonight!”
India’s next assignment is against the UAE on January 10th.