India stun Thailand to make early statement of intent at Asian Cup

Jeje Lalpekhlua celebrates after scoring during India's 4-1 win over Thailand. (AFP)
Updated 06 January 2019

India stun Thailand to make early statement of intent at Asian Cup

  • Blue Tigers impress during their Group A opener in Abu Dhabi.
  • Next up for India is a clash against the hosts UAE on Thursday.

ABU DHABI: India stunned Thailand 4-1 at the Asian Cup football tournament on Sunday, veteran striker Sunil Chhetri scoring twice in their Group A opener.
Watched by the 12 Thai schoolboys rescued from a flooded jungle cave last year after being trapped for more than two weeks, the War Elephants had little answer to India's brimming energy in Abu Dhabi.
Chhetri opened the scoring when he smashed home from the penalty spot after 27 minutes.
The Blue Tigers were in front for just seven minutes, Thai captain Teerasil Dangda restoring parity by bravely heading home a Theerathon Bunmathan free kick.
But Chhetri drilled his second of the game moments into the second half following a lung-bursting run down the right from Udanta Singh.
Things got worse for Thailand when Anirudh Thapa chipped in a third in the 68th minute before substitute Lalpekhlua Jeje completed the rout to leave India as unlikely group leaders.
Hosts United Arab Emirates were held 1-1 by Bahrain in Saturday's curtain-raiser.
India's players celebrated by performing Iceland's "Viking Thunderclap" in front of their delirious fans.
"Did I expect to win 4-1? No, but we're not getting carried away," insisted India coach Stephen Constantine.
"It's just another game. There will be no issue with keeping the boys' feet on the ground, don't worry about that."
The Englishman, formerly in charge of Malawi, Sudan and Rwanda, has clashed with senior players and sparked dismay in India by stripping Chhetri of the captaincy.
"There's no controversy about rotating captains!" he snapped when quizzed by Indian media.
"I've done it for four years. Chhetri gives everything every game he plays whether he's captain or not."
India finished runners-up on their Asian Cup debut in 1964 when it was a four-team competition won by Israel.
But they had lost six of their last seven games at the regional tournament, conceding 20 goals, before qualifying for the fourth time and first since 2011.
"If I say it's just another result would that be a cliche?" said Constantine.
"We've won one game, got three points. We have two more games, that's it."
Thailand, appearing for the since co-hosting the tournament in 2007, have now won just one of 21 games at the Asian Cup.
Thailand coach Milovan Rajevac made no excuses for this side's humiliating defeat.
"India totally deserved to win," said the Serb. "We didn't underestimate them. They were aggressive and fought for everything. But it's just one game. We have two more left so we have to learn from our mistakes and go again."


Manchester City’s European ban quashed on appeal

Updated 4 min 7 sec ago

Manchester City’s European ban quashed on appeal

  • Initial fine of $34 million was also reduced to $11.3 million on appeal
LAUSANNE: Manchester City will be free to play Champions League football next season after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) lifted a two-season ban from European competitions imposed by UEFA on Monday.
An initial fine of $34 million was also reduced to $11.3 million on appeal.
City were accused of deliberately inflating the value of income from sponsors with links to the Abu Dhabi United Group, also owned by City owner Sheikh Mansour, to avoid falling foul of financial fair play (FFP) regulations between 2012 and 2016.
The case against City was reopened when German magazine Der Spiegel published a series of leaked emails in 2018.
However, CAS found that “most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the CFCB (UEFA Club Financial Control Body) were either not established or time-barred.”
City welcomed the decision that will have huge ramifications on the club’s finances and potentially the future of manager Pep Guardiola and star players such as Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.
“Whilst Manchester City and its legal advisers are yet to review the full ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the club welcomes the implications of today’s ruling as a validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present,” City said in a statement.
“The club wishes to thank the panel members for their diligence and the due process that they administered.”
Since Sheikh Mansour’s takeover 12 years ago, City’s fortunes have been transformed from perennially living in the shadow of local rivals Manchester United to winning four Premier League titles in the past eight years among 11 major trophies.
On Saturday, they secured qualification for the Champions League for a 10th consecutive season with a 5-0 win at Brighton.
More silverware could come before the end of the season as Guardiola’s side face Arsenal in the FA Cup semifinals on Saturday before restarting their Champions League campaign in August, holding a 2-1 lead over Real Madrid from the first leg of their last 16 tie.
City’s victory in court will raise fresh questions over how effectively UEFA can police FFP.
But European football’s governing body said it remained committed to the system which limits clubs to not losing more than 30 million euros, with exceptions for some costs such as youth development and women’s teams, over a three-year period.
“UEFA notes that the CAS panel found that there was insufficient conclusive evidence to uphold all of the CFCB’s conclusions in this specific case and that many of the alleged breaches were time-barred due to the five-year time period foreseen in the UEFA regulations,” UEFA said in a statement.
“Over the last few years, Financial Fair Play has played a significant role in protecting clubs and helping them become financially sustainable and UEFA and ECA remain committed to its principles.”