Result: Thailand 1-0 India
Scorer: Sarayoot Chikamdee (73′)
Despite goalkeeper Subrata Pal’s heroic performance, Indian national team lost by a solitary goal against Thailand in the first friendly encounter held at Yahama Stadium in Bangkok on Saturday evening. Thailand’s star striker Sarayoot Chikamdee’s 73rd minute strike separated the two sides that are due to face each other for the return leg on 8th September at Ambedkar Stadium, New Delhi.
Thailand dominated the match from start to finish, keeping a healthy ball possession, whereas India mainly relied on counter attacks. Bob Houghton opted for his preferred 4-4-2 formation with Mohammed Rafi getting the nod in place of yet to recover Indian Captain Baichung Bhutia, to partner Sunil Chhetri upfront. Climax Lawrence was declared fit before the match and the senior midfielder was handed the captain’s arm-band as well. Mahesh Gawli was a surprise inclusion in the left back position ahead of N.S.Manju while Surkumar Singh filled in the right back position.
Houghton’s Thai counterpart Bryan Robson also went for a strong first 11, as expected, with talismanic goal scorer Sarayoot Chikamdee leading the front line, and the experienced Datsakorn Thonglao marshaling the midfield. Thailand, playing in favorable home conditions,started off the match as the more positive of the two teams. The home side dictated the early proceedings and created quite a few decent opportunities, keeping the Indian defenders always on their toes.
The first real chance of the match fell for Chikamdee in the 21st minute, but his thunderous strike was brilliantly saved by Subrata Pal to keep India on level terms. A couple of minutes later Surkumar Singh tried his luck with a long range shot which was easily collected by the Thailand goalkeeper.
India survived another scare near the half-an-hour mark when Thonglao’s close range effort ricocheted off the goal bar, with Subrata completely beaten. Five minutes before the half time whistle, Teerasil Dangda wasted an opportunity to put Thailand ahead by firing agonizingly wide of the far post from a very close range.
Sunil Chhetri came closest to registering a goal for India just before the stroke of half time whistle, but the goal-post came up to Thailand’s rescue, as his excellent effort unfortunately got rebounded off the crossbar.
The second half started on a more positive note for the visiting team as they tried to slow down the tempo of the game by keeping the possession of the ball as much as possible. But, it was once again Thailand who looked more likely to be able to break the dead-lock.
With just about 30 minutes remaining in the match, Houghton made a change and substituted an ineffective Steven Dias with Clifford Miranda. Anthony Pereira moved to his preferred right wing position and Miranda operated from the left flank.
Thai midfielder Phichitphong Choeichiu forced a fine save off Subrata Paul in the 70th minute; but even the brilliant performance from the reliable custodian failed to inspire his team-mates, and Thailand broke the stalemate with a fine goal by Sarayoot Chikamdee three minutes later.
Renedy Singh replaced Climax Lawrence at the central midfield with ten minutes to go before the final whistle; after the change, India looked more threatening and pressed for the equalizer. Mehrajuddin Wadoo then came off the bench for N.P.Pradeep, but it was too late by then. Thailand had one more goal disallowed for off-side, one minute from time. Thailand held on to their own fort, seeing off the remaining couple of minute’s stoppage time to register a dominant 1-0 win and they will certainly start as the more confident team ahead of the reverse fixture to be played at New Delhi’s Ambedkar Stadium on next Wednesday.
India Line-up: Subrata, Surkumar, Gaurmangi, Anwar, Mahesh, Anthony, Climax (Renedy 80’), Pradeep (Mehraj 80’), Steven (Miranda 66’), Rafi, Sunil.
Thailand Line-up: Sinthaweechai, Panupong, Surajit, Chonlatit, Theeratorn, Pichitpong, Thonglow, Rangsan, Nutnum, Dangda (Thonkanya 75’), Chikamdee
[Image Courtesy: http://spunp.blogspot.com/]