Vol. 4 Num 76 Mon. August 11, 2003  

Real end Asian adventure

Thailand's national side turned in a strong performance against Real Madrid Sunday, narrowly beaten 2-1 as the Spanish superstars wrapped up their four-nation tour of Asia.

The result was the narrowest losing margin of the tour, which included a 4-2 victory against a Hong Kong XI on Friday, a 3-0 romp against J-League first division club FC Tokyo and a 4-0 trouncing of a Chinese XI in Beijing.

Bangkok's Rajamangala Stadium was bursting with a 55,000 capacity crowd which included Latin pop heart throb Ricky Martin as well as Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thailand came out fighting, the same strategy it employed in its friendly against British glamour side Liverpool here last month, and created several opportunities to score.

But the Thai players failed to convert the chances into a goal, and soon Madrid took control of the game with the first of three free kicks being awarded in the 19th minute.

New signing David Beckham took the kick but failed to score, and Javier Portillo finally put Real on the scoreboard in the 32nd minute, unleashing an energetic counter-attack from Thailand as it attempted to equalise.

Five minutes before the half-time whistle Thai keeper Kittisak Rawangpa made a super save from the world's most expensive player Zinedine Zidane just eight yards from the goal.

In the second half, more of Real's top players, except World Footballer of the Year Ronaldo and Portuguese superstar Luis Figo were unleashed on the pitch, including Spanish striker Raul and Brazil's Roberto Carlos who narrowly missed scoring from a free kick 40 yards from the penalty box.

Thai striker Sarayut Chaikamdee equalised for the hosts in the 61st minute, earning himself a 100,000 baht (2,400 dollar) bounty offered by the sponsors for every Thai goal.

But it was not long before Spanish striker Fernando Morientez pushed Real into a 2-1 lead in the 64th minute.

After the goal the two teams fought for control, with Thailand creating two chances to equalise only to have the ball hit the upper bar on both occasions.

After the final whistle, the Real Madrid players joined the Thais and the giant crowd in a candlelight ceremony to mark the birthday this week of Thailand's Queen Sirikit.

Real Madrid superstar David Beckham (R) leaves Thailand's Choktawee Prommarat (bottom-L) in his wake in Bangkok yesterday. Photo: AFP