A double brace from Sunil Chhetri and a tremendous push from the gritty team helped the Blue Tigers started their AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign in style with a comprehensive 4-1 win against Thailand on Sunday. India registered their first victory in the competition since 1964 to go on top of group A. The win at the Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi was also their biggest winning margin in an Asian Cup match.
Chhetri opened the scoring in the 27th minute from a spot-kick following a handball from Thai defender Theerathon Bunmathan but the War Elephants equalized the score with Teerasil Dangda’s header within six minutes.
Thailand failed to convert the shots into goals even though they had major possession in the first half with India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu kept himself busy throughout.
The second half was by dominated ranked 97 India after the failed attempts to break through in the first 45 minutes. Chhetri scored his second goal off Udanta Singh’s cross in just two minutes after the game was resumed, maintaining a 2-1 lead.
With 67 goals from 105 international matches, the 34-year-old Chhetri surpassed Argentine star Lionel Messi’s 65 goals to become the second highest goal scorer among the active players. Cristiano Ronaldo is the only other active player who has 85 goals to top the list.
Anirudh Thapa chipped over Thailand goalkeeper Chatchai Budprom to register his first international goal in the 68th minute. But the goal was not the last of the game as substitute Jeje Lalpekhlua struck in the 80th minute just two minutes after coming off the bench, finishing the scoreline with a huge 4-1 victory.
The historic win earned India a solid three points to top the group, with the hosts UAE and the neighbors, Bahrain ended in a 1-1 draw in another match.