(Result: India 1-2 Thailand)
It was again heart break for all the Indian football supporters as Team India suffered their second consecutive defeat against Thailand in the home tie played at New Delhi’s Ambedkar Stadium. Keawsombat Keerati scored the winner for Thailand in the 64th minute of the match.
India started with an unchanged line up that featured in the away match, in Bangkok. Thailand made a few changes to their starting eleven and Coach Bryan Robson decided to try out some of the youngsters, ahead of their Asian Games campaign.
It was raining quite heavily before the kick off but the damp weather failed to dampen the spirits of around ten thousand Indian fans, who were present at the stadium to support the Bhangra Boys. Thailand began the match in attacking fashion and pressed hard for an early lead. As early as in the third minute, Thailand created an opportunity to break free and Keerati unleashed a right footer. Though it landed awkwardly and bounced in front of Subrata Pal, the Indian custodian did well to collect the ball in the second attempt.
In the 8th minute, Thailand got another opportunity to take the lead. But Teerathep Winothai’s shot was brilliantly saved by Subrata. India got their first real chance of the match in the 19th minute when Subrata Paul‘s goalkick was flicked on by Sunil Chhetri, but Mohammed Rafi’s attempted drive went wide of the far post.
A couple of minutes later Keerati connected well from a corner to direct the ball towards the Indian goal, but this time the crossbar came up to rescue the home team. From the counter attack, India got a free kick in a decent position when N.P. Pradeep was brought down unfairly by Thai defender Wangkahad Ponlawat. India’s dead ball specialist Steven Dias stepped up to take the free-kick, but his curling delivery went just wide of the left post.
Thailand kept the majority of the ball possession and they were unlucky again at the stroke of the half time as Natthaphong’s thunderous shot came off the woodwork, with Subrata Paul completely beaten.
Thailand kicked off the second half and continued to put pressure on the Indian defense, displaying fine one-touch passing skills. It was a matter of time before Indian defence cracked, and it did crack in the 48th minute. From a quick counter attack, Jarikanon Puritat released the ball to Teerathep Winothai, who did well to finish the move off with an excellent effort.
Trailing by a goal to nil, India turned on the heat in search of the equalizer. Steven Dias had a night to forget and he was replaced by Clifford Miranda in the 54th minute. That move paid off immediately, as India brought life back into the contest and equalized. Anthony Pereira collected the ball from the right and sent in a cross for Sunil Chhetri. Sunil’s header ricocheted off the goalkeeper’s body and the ball fell for N.P. Pradeep, whose header touched Thai goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan and rolled over the goal-line.
With less than half-an-hour to go and the score still tied on 1-1, Dechmitr Wichaya’s lofted cross from the left found Nataporn‘s header; but the ball rebounded off the woodwork again, but Keerati was alert enough to guide the ball home with a low diving header.
In an desperate attempt to restore the parity, Houghton brought in Baichung Bhutia as a substitute for Mohammed Rafi in the 70th minute. The Sikkimese Sniper looked threatening and India created a few chances in the last twenty minutes. In the 85th minute, Pradeep chested a ball towards Bhutia just inside the Thai box and the Indian captain fired an acrobatic scissor-kick that missed the target by a whisker, with the goalkeeper completely beaten. Baichung continued to trouble the defenders with his excellent positioning sense and once again managed to find the target in the 90th minute, but the Thai ‘keeper averted the danger.
Just before the stroke of the final whistle, Bhaichung was brought down by Suttinan, just inside the box. But, the referee failed to spot the exact point of contact and instead of a deserved penalty, a free kick was awarded to India, on the edge of the box. However, N.P. Pradeep’s delivery was disappointing and flew off target.
The scoreline remained the same until the final whistle as Bryan Robson’s boys pulled off an impressive win over their Asian rivals. The Men In Blue will have to up the ante in their next international friendly against Namibia scheduled on the 15th of September if they wish to get back to the winning ways.
1-SUBRATA PAL (GK), 17- I SURKUMAR SINGH, 5- ANWAR, 19-GOURAMANGI SINGH, 14-MAHESH GAWLI, 23-STEVEN DIAS (25-CLIFFORD MIRANDA – 56’), 30-CLIMAX LAWRENCE, 7-N P PRADEEP, 28-ANTHONY PEREIRA, 11- SUNIL CHHETRI, 26-MOHAMMED RAFI (15- BAICHUNG BHUTIA – 70’)
SUBSTITUES-24-SUBHASISH ROY CHOUDHARY, 3-NS MANJU, 15-BHAICHUNG BHUTIA, 27-MEHRAJUDDIN WADOO, 25-CLIFFORD MIRANDA, 9-ABHISHEK YADAV, 12-DEEPAK MONDAL
THAMASATCHANAN KAWIN (GK), 2-WANGKAHAD PONLAWAT, 5- PHUKHOM SUTTINUN, 6-PHANRIT NATAPORN ( C ), 3-SAMANA NATTHAPHONG, 15- BOONMATOON KHAPFA, 10- JARIKANON PURITAT, 11-VATCHIRABAN NARONGCHAI, 17-DECHMITR WICHAYA, 14-WINOTHAI TEERATHEP, 8-KEAWSOMBAT KEERATI
SUBSTITUTES: 18- SAMUEL POR CUNNINGHAM (GK), 16- LAENG PETER, 19- CHOEICHIG PHICHITPONG, 20- NGAMTIP SURACHET, 13- JUJEEN ANAWIN, 12- INUTHANAE KRAIKITTI, 9- RANGSIYO RONNACHAI