India thrashed Thailand 4-1 to start their campaign at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup on an emphatic note here on Sunday.
This was India’s first victory against Thailand since the Merdeka Cup of 1986.
This was also India’s highest victory margin against Thailand. In 1986, India had won 3-1 thanks to a hat-trick by the legendary Krishanu Dey.
The win put India at the top of the points table in Group A. They are followed by Bahrain and hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE), who had played out a 1-1 stalemate in the tournament opener on Saturday.
The astonishing scoreline, which perhaps surprised even the Indian players themselves, came on the back of a brace by star striker Sunil Chhetri (27th, 46th minutes) a maiden international goal by the young Anirudh Thapa (68th) and an exccellent finish by Jeje Lalpekhlua (80th).
Teerasil Dangda found the only goal for Thailand when he found the eqaliser in the 33rd minute.
India started on an attacking note before the Thai players found their rhytmn and gradually started to dominate proceedings.
But India took the lead against the run of play when they were awarded a penalty after the ball hit Thai defender Theerathon Bunmathan’s arm inside the box.
Chhetri stepped forward to calmly push the ball in even as Thailand goalkeeper Chatchai Budprom dived the other way.
Thailand continued to press forward and Bunmathan made amends for conceding the penalty when he whipped in an accurate free-kick into the Indian penalty area which was headed in by Dangda.
The equaliser was followed by a prolonged spell of domination by Thailand with the Indians forced to come up with some gritty defending to keep their opponents at bay.
The Indians were a transformed bunch after the break and retook the lead almost immediately after the re-start off a fast counter-attack.
Udanta Singh caught the Thai defence on the wrong foot with his scorching pace and played a square ball into the box and Ashique Kuruniyan produced a superb one-touch pass for Chhetri who met the ball with an excellent finish.
Udanta was at the heart of India’s third goal as well. Fed by a Chhetri pass from the midfield, the fleet-footed Manipuri beat two Thai defenders before finding Thapa with a back pass.
Thapa almost let the ball slip by but re-positioned himself swiftly to chip the ball into the net.
That seemed to kill of the Thais mentally and Jeje underlined India’s domination by scoring the fourth goal only a couple of minutes after comning on as a replacement for Kuruniyan.