Mumbai: Sunil Chhetri was the star once again as India all but sealed their place in the Intercontinental Cup final, defeating Kenya 3-0 in their second match of the tournament at the Mumbai Football Arena on Monday.
Chhetri bagged his 60th and 61st international goals to bring up a century of appearances in India’s colours.
After torrential downpour in a goal-less first half, a second-half penalty by Chhetri followed by an instinctive finish from Jeje Lalpekhlua gave India a 2-0 lead. Chhetri then extended the lead in the dying minutes to give India a comfortable win.
Stephen Constantine opted for the same starting line-up as last time as Chhetri started up front with Udanta Singh and Halicharan Narzary on either side. Pronay Halder and Anirudh Thapa started in midfield for the second game running.
The first half saw the heavy rain hampering both teams as neither could hold on to the ball for long enough to influence proceedings. Kenya pushed ahead but the defence remained firm to keep the visitors out.
Chhetri had the best chance for India as the ball slipped to him outside the penalty box only for him to float it over.
As the weather subsided in the second half, Kenya got off to a fast start as they attacked the India goal through the center of the defence and fashioned two good chances.
It was finally the skipper in his 100th appearance who broke the deadlock, winning a penalty and then converting it, driving it hard towards the goalie’s right to convert it. The penalty decision was a bit soft, with the initial foul happening just outside the box.
Jeje Lalpekhlua then doubled India’s lead as he latched onto a rebound and then rifled it home, into the top corner.
It was the man of the moment Chhetri again, who wrapped up the tie for India as he ran onto Balwant Singh’s through ball, only to chip it above the keeper and get his second of the night. While the celebration for the first goal was muted, the exquisite second was marked by Chhetri running over the hoarding and straight to the fans who responded by chanting their captain’s name.
India play New Zealand in their last group stage match on the 7th with the final scheduled for 10th June.
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