India’s AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign started on an emphatic note beating Thailand 4-1 in their opening Group A clash at the Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Sunday.
Skipper Sunil Chhetri scored a brace in the 27th (penalty) and 46th minute while Anirudh Thapa scored the third in the 69th and substitute Jeje Lalpekhlua gave the finishing touches with a brilliant goal in the 80th minute.
Against the run of the game, Ashique Kuruniyan broke away and won a penalty after the ball bounced back from the Thai goalie Chatchai Budprom to hit defender Theeraton Bunmatan’s hand. Chhetri cooly converted from the spot.
Then, just after the restart, Udanta Kumam produced a blistering run on the right flank, before releasing it for a waiting Chhetri, who beat the Thai goalie with a curling effort. It was his 67th international goal.
With that Chhetri became the second most prolific scorer among active players in the world football. Only Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo has more goals, 85.
In the process, the Indian captain has overtaken Argentine great Lionel Messi and Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba – both at 65.
Udanta notched up his second assist, selflessly rolling the ball in the path of Anirudh, who chipped the goal past Budprom.
With ten minutes left in the regulation time whistle, Jeje produced a stunning finish to make it 4-1.
India will play hosts the UAE in their second match on January 10 (Thursday), before taking on Bahrain in the final group match on January 14.