India maul Thailand 4-1 in their opening clash
ABU DHABI, January 6: Indian football’s goal machine Sunil Chhetri struck a brace to help the country stunningly outplay Thailand 4-1 and record its first victory in the Asian Cup since 1964 on a historic night here on Sunday.
Playing in his second Asian Cup and 105th match, Chhetri scored in the 27th (penalty) and 46th minutes for his 66th and 67th goals to become the second highest international goal scorer among active players.
Midfielder Anirudh Thapa and second-half substitute Jeje Lalpekhlua then struck in the 68th and 80th minutes to completely outclass Thailand at the Al Nahyan Stadium in front of a sizeable Indian supporters.
With his two strikes, the 34-year-old Chhetri went past Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, who has so far scored 65 goals from 128 matches. Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is the highest scorer with 85 from 154 matches.
Thailand captain and striker Teerasil Dangda pulled one back for his side in the 33rd minute of the Group A match.
A draw in either of the two coming matches against UAE and Bahrain could see India through to the knockout round.
Ranked 97th in the FIFA charts, India went into the match eyeing a win against their 118th ranked opponents, but the scoreline and impressive show by the players, especially in the second half, was unexpected.
Thailand were the better side in the first half with an overwhelming 70 per cent possession and more shots on target.
With three players who ply their trade in Japanese top tier J-League, the South East Asian country dictated terms with their fluid and neat interchange of passes to build their moves from their own half. India had to do a lot of defending.
India had few such neat moves and lost the ball often. They had very few quality crosses from the flanks and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was far busier than his Thai counterpart in the first half.
Holders Australia fall to shock Jordan loss
Australia made the worst possible start to the defence of their Asian Cup crown on Sunday as Graham Arnold’s Socceroos were handed a 1-0 defeat by unfancied Jordan.
The Australians, who won the title on home soil four years ago, dominated for long spells but were unable to find a way to cancel out Anas Bani Yaseen’s 26th minute header in the Group B clash at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
Vital Borkelmans’ Jordan were resolute in defence against an Australia side that struggled to turn their domination into chances. The Socceroos went into halftime trailing by a goal and were fortunate not to be further behind.
Bani Yaseen put his side in front when he was given the time and space to head Baha Abdelrahman’s corner home unchallenged, powering the ball beyond the flat-footed Maty Ryan.
Four minutes later Abdelrahman almost added a second when his free kick from the edge of the area speared towards goal, only for Ryan to push the ball onto the woodwork before it was cleared. (PTI)