Long-serving striker Sunil Chhetri helped India open account in AFC Asian Cup 2019 on a blistering note on Sunday against Thailand at Al Nahyan Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The 34-year-old attacker scored a sensational brace in India’s 4-1 victory in the group opener. Apart from him, Anirudh Thapa registered his maiden goal in the blue shirt while Jeje Lalpekhlua was on the scoresheet for Team India. The only consolation for Thailand came from Teerasil Dangda who netted before half-time.
India started the match strongly and got an early lead when the referee pointed at the penalty spot in the 27th minute after Ashique Kuruniyan’s shot was rebounded off the arm of defender Theerathon Bunmathan. Chhetri converted the penalty coolly to take his goal tally to 66 international goals. However, that lead lasted short as Dangda rose to the occasion and equalised the score for Thailand.
In the first minute after the half-time break, Sunil Chhetri helped India regain the lead in the match with a sublime finish. Thapa made it 3-1 later while Lalpekhlua put the final nail in Thailand’s coffin with a superbly-taken goal.
Interestingly, Sunil Chhetri, who was playing his 104th match, took his international goal tally to 67 goals surpassing Barcelona icon Lionel Messi.
India will now play their second pool match against hosts United Arab Emirates on January 10, Thursday, at 09:30 pm India time.