A stunning second-half strike by Sutee Suksomkit earned Thailand a well-deserved 1-1 draw with English Premier League giants Liverpool in a pre-season game in Bangkok on Wednesday. Sutee's goal cancelled out an early opener from Ryan Babel which Liverpool failed to build on.
There was little goalmouth action to excite the capacity 76,000 crowd with Liverpool looking decidedly ring-rusty. The Premier League runners-up have still to win in their pre-season travels following a 0-0 draw with St Gallen of Switzerland and a 1-0 loss to Rapid Vienna.
"We had some chances, we were playing against a team that was well organised and they play quick," said Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez. "So you come to a new continent and conditions are different, always more difficult, but I was pleased with the performance of some players and also pleased to see the national team (of Thailand) play well."
Benitez was left to rue a hamstring injury picked up by defender Martin Skrtel early in the second half but said he was not sure how long the Slovak would be out of action. "I'm really disappointed because Martin has a had a problem with his hamstring and a little bit with the ligaments on the knee, so we have to wait," he said.
Thailand coach Peter Reid, who starred for Liverpool's local rivals Everton in his heyday, was overjoyed with the result. "We passed the ball really well and it was great to get a good equaliser," he said. "Liverpool are a strong team and it was a great experience for the Thailand team to play against them."
No start for Spaniards
As expected, Liverpool's Spanish contingent did not feature in the starting line-up with Real Madrid target Xabi Alonso not even on the bench, heightening speculation that he will soon be on the move. Dutch duo Dirk Kuyt and Babel, stand-in captain Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva were the most recognisable names in the team. The highly rated Krisztian Nemeth and David Ngog formed the strike partnership with Fernando Torres named as one of the substitutes.
Thailand could have sprung a surprise after just two minutes, playmaker Datsakorn Thonglao sidefooting a weak clearance from keeper Diego Cavalieri just wide. But Liverpool opened the scoring in the simplest fashion four minutes later. A long ball from Carragher at first eluded Babel but he steadied and shot low into the net.
Babel should have grabbed his own and Liverpool's second in the 20th minute, shooting tamely past the post after an exquisite through-ball from Lucas. The last real action of a lacklustre first half saw Datsakorn fire a free-kick just over the top.
Benitez changed virtually the whole team for the second half with goalscorer Babel the sole survivor. But there was still no start for Torres despite calls from the full-house Rajamanagala Stadium.
Midfielder Javier Mascherano had a rasping drive from distance saved in the 62nd minute as Liverpool pushed forward for a second goal. Thailand drew level in the 72nd minute after a well-worked move, substitute Sutee playing a one-two with Teerasil Dangda before finishing off with his left foot.
The spectators finally got their wish in the 80th minute when Torres and fellow Spaniard Albert Riera came on as substitutes. Andriy Voronin, back with Liverpool after a loan spell with Hertha Berlin, should have sealed the issue for the Reds but shot wide from a good position.