Sunil Chhetri on the double as India put four past Thailand in Asian Cup
Victory puts the Indians top of Group A ahead of Thursday's clash with UAE
India manager Stephen Constantine has urged his players “not to get carried away with one game” after his side thumped Thailand 4-1 in their 2019 Asian Cup opener at the Al Nahyan stadium on Sunday.
Sunil Chhetri scored twice, with Anirudh Thapa and Jeje Lalpekhlua claiming the other goals, as India surged to the top of a Group A that also includes hosts UAE and Bahrain, who drew the tournament’s opening game on Friday night.
Chhetri put his side in front from the penalty spot after 27 minutes only for Thailand captain Teerasil Dangda to head home the equaliser five minutes later. Chhetri then struck again immediately after the interval as India reclaimed the lead, before Thapa and Lalpekhlua added the gloss to the win.
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India next meet the UAE on Thursday, and Constantine believes the win over Thailand would have sent an ominous warning to Alberto Zaccheroni and his players.
“We came here to qualify and I think it’s time we are no longer looking at India as we were,” he said. “Tonight, the people got a good look of what we are capable of. We are a young side, a fit side and we’ll run until the last minute.”
India go in to the next game at Zayed Sports City stadium knowing a win would be enough to send them through to the knockout stages. Constantine, who oversaw India’s first Asian Cup win in 54 years, said his team’s victory was reward for all their hard work in qualifying for the tournament.
“The whole Asian Cup excites me,” he said. “We played 18 games, blood, sweat and tears, pre-qualifiers and qualifiers.
“We got here, we are a young team and we are very excited of the prospect of playing against all the teams. Of course the UAE will be a different game. They are a very good side but we’ll take it as another team standing in our way.”
Constantine revealed how a few minor changes at half-time helped set up India for their fine second half performance.
“We had some small adjustments at half time, obviously we wanted try and change things,” he said. “The problem we had was giving the ball away too quickly. So we tried to look after the ball better in the second half, and I think we did with that early goal.
“We just tried to win the game and be competitive. We have worked hard for the last two-three years. We are not going to be carried away from one game.”
Thailand manager Milovan Rajevac was gracious in defeat, and has challenged his players to respond in their next game against Bahrain on Thursday.
“India absolutely deserved to win and we under-performed in the second half,” said the Serbian.
“Against us, India showed an excellent performance in the second half unlike my team. We have to learn from this game and be better for the next match.
“It was one of the bad days for us. We lacked the power, strength, the running and the aggression in order to have a better result.”
Updated: January 7, 2019 06:12 PM