Asian Cup 2019: Sunil Chhetri strikes twice as India beat Thailand 4-1

India's forward Sunil Chhetri (2nd-R) celebrates after scoring a goal. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates Jan 06, 2019, 09.08 PM (IST)

Cricket-mad 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.