Bangkok: India’s return to international football was far from encouraging as it lost to Thailand by a solitary goal in a friendly tie at the Yamaha Stadium here on Saturday.
Thailand, who failed to qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup in Doha, rode on experienced striker Sarayoot Chikamdee’s 73rd-minute strike to emerge winners.
Fresh from their two-month training stint in Portugal, it was India’s first international assignment since last year’s Nehru Cup but for Bob Houghton and his boys, things didn’t really pan out the way they had hoped for.
In the absence of regular skipper Bhaichung Bhutia, suffering from recurring Thyroid-related illness, Climax Lawrence led the team in a match that was also Mohammad Rafi’s maiden international appearance.
The former Mahindra United striker could have given India lead but his 68th-minute attempt was taken care of by the Thai custodian.
While Thailand had possession for a major part of the first half, there were sporadic attempts by the Indians as well.
Sunil Chhetri, back from his Major League Soccer stint at Kansas City Wizards, had a chance off Steven Dias’s free kick at the stroke of breather but could not cash in on.
Before that, in the 22nd minute, Surkumar Singh’s powerful rightfooter was blocked by Thai goalkeeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool.
Coached by former England and Manchester United legend Brian Robson, the hosts started on an aggressive note with their strikers showing a lot of enterprise.
But India’s defenders were equal to task, never allowing them to take a stranglehold.
India play the return match at the Ambedkar Stadium on September 8, before taking on Namibia a week later.