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Aussies slump, India soar on day of Asian Cup upsets

Al-Ain (United Arab Emirates) (AFP) – Australia made a horror start to their title defence and unfancied India stunned Thailand on a day of upsets at the Asian Cup on Sunday.

The Socceroos had expected to make short work of Jordan but Graham Arnold’s men slumped 1-0 in their worst start in four visits to the tournament.

Later, India also sprang a surprise when they thrashed Thailand 4-1 to top Group A, after the 1-1 draw between hosts UAE and Bahrain in the tournament opener on Saturday.

Australia are targeting their third straight final but the Socceroos failed to score despite enjoying 76 percent of possession against Jordan.

Coach Graham Arnold said he was confident of a quick recovery in the remaining Group B games against Palestine and Syria.

“If you’re going to lose a game, it’s better to lose your first game,” Arnold said.

“It’s a wake-up call… it’s all about where we can improve. We’ll get over it very quickly.”

Jordan celebrated wildly with their travelling supporters in Al Ain after Anas Bani-Yaseen’s first-half header was enough to beat the defending champions in Al Ain.

Coach Vital Borkelmans said his players successfully targeted Australia’s midfielders Massimo Luongo and Mark Milligan, and exploited the space left by their advancing backs. 

“I told them today, ‘God gave you something’, and today they were playing for the people of Jordan,” said Borkelmans. 

“They were running like they had three lungs,” he added.

Australia had an early warning when Brighton ‘keeper Mat Ryan had to keep out Yousef Rawashdeh at his near post after Luongo was dispossessed.

Jordan’s goal came from a corner on 26 minutes, when defender Bani-Yaseen put a thumping header into the top corner, prompting jubilation in the strongly pro-Jordan crowd.

Ryan kept Australia in it when he tipped Baha Abdelrahman’s free kick onto the bar, and while Australia improved in the second half, they couldn’t find a way through.

— Rip-roaring start —

Celtic’s Tom Rogic scooped an inviting shot over and Awer Mabil hit the post, before Jordan’s Amer Shafi pulled off a superb double stop in the final action of the game.

In Abu Dhabi, veteran striker Sunil Chhetri scored twice as India unexpectedly thumped Thailand to make a rip-roaring start to their campaign.

Chhetri smashed home from the penalty spot after 27 minutes before Thai captain Teerasil Dangda’s header from a Theerathon Bunmathan free kick made it 1-1.

But Chhetri drilled his second moments into the second half following a lung-bursting run down the right from Udanta Singh.

Anirudh Thapa chipped in India’s third in the 68th minute before substitute Lalpekhlua Jeje completed the rout to leave India as unlikely group leaders.

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