JALANDHAR : Sunil Chhetri scored twice as India beat Thailand 4-1 to begin their AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Group A campaign in fine style at Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The 34-year-old netted either side of the break to help guide his side to their first finals win in 55 years and pole position in the group standings following Saturday’s 1-1 draw between Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
India dominated the game since beginning and gave a tough fight to their Thai counterparts.
It was Thailand who threatened first, captain Teerasil Dangda finding Thitiphan Puangjan who unleashed a fierce 11th minute drive which sailed narrowly wide of India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s right-hand post.
For India, the first chance came in the 27th minute when India won a penalty corner and Sunil Chhetri blasted the ball into the goal hence sounding the score card 1-0.
However, soon after, Teerasil came back and levelled the score 1-1 through a free -kick in the 33rd minutes of the match.
In the second half, Chettri again lead the team from front side. India’s Kumam Udanta passed from the right hand side of the field and when the ball reached the edge of the box, Chhetri came running from the midfield and thrashed the ball into the goal hence taking the score to 2-1 in the 47th minute.
After that, there was no looking back for the Indian team who went on crashing down every effort of the Thai team to level the score.
Following the win, celebrations erupted on social media as fans made a beeline to congratulate the team.
Last time, India played the tournament in 2011 and crashed out after losing all matches. This is the fourth time, India is participating in the tournament.
The two top sides from each of the six groups made up of four countries will reach the next round. India is placed along with Thailand, Bahrain and host UAE.
India will now look to build on their initial success when they face host nation the UAE at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium on Thursday, while Thailand are set to face Bahrain in Dubai on the same day.