A night to remember for star Tawan (29/03/2009 )

Tawan Sripan scored one goal as Thailand came from behind to beat New Zealand 3-1 in his testimonial at Supachalasai stadium last night.

Simon Elliott opened the scoring for the Oceania champions after 14 minutes only for the Thais to hit back with goals from Teerasil Dangda (15th and 71st) and Tawan (21st).

"This was a special day for me. I cried because I was very happy to have a testimonial," said an emotional Tawan during an award presentation ceremony at halftime.

"I would like to thank my parents who have given me support throughout my football career.

"I hope that players of a younger generation play for their country as best as they can."

Tawan, 36, quit international football last year but is still playing for his club BEC Tero Sasana, where he is also a coach.

Tawan, whose name means 'sun' in Thai, was one of the brightest stars of the 'Dream Team' who stunned South Korea to reach the semi-finals of the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok.

"Tawan is a good example for young players on and off the pitch," said Thailand coach Peter Reid after the match.

"At 36, he still can play and play well.

"I am very happy for him."

Reid handed Tawan, who is dubbed the gentleman of Thai football, the captain's armband. However, it was New Zealand who were more lively in the opening stages.

The All Whites drew first blood after 14 minutes when Elliott beat an offside trap and sent the ball past Thailand goalkeeper Kosin Hathairattanakool for a well-deserved 1-0 lead.

But the visitors' lead was short lived as Thailand put the match back on level terms moments later.

New Zealand goalkeeper Mark Paston's poor clearance allowed Teerasil to slot the loose ball home.

After the equaliser, the Thais piled pressure on the Kiwis and another blunder by New Zealand's defence allowed Tawan to send the ball into the net.

It was Tawan's 23rd goal for the national team since he received his first cap 17 years ago.

Tawan was replaced by Datsakorn Thonglao after 31 miuntes as Thailand lead 2-1 at the interval.

Teerasil put the match beyond any doubt when he went clear and beat Paston for a 3-1 lead.

Reid said his men played well with some excellent passing and that the match was useful as Thai players got a chance to play against big and strong opponents.