Mumbai: Skipper Sunil Chhetri scored a hat-trick in his 99th international cap as India blanked a hapless Chinese Taipei young side 5-0 in the opening Intercontinental Cup football match at Mumbai Football Arena here on Friday.
Chhetri’s Bengaluru FC team-mate Udanta Singh scored third goal from his own brilliance to sink visitors further. Jeje Lalpekhlua assisted in first two Chhetri goals setup by midfield. Pronoy Halder blasted in fifth goal to sum up the disappointing night for rival coach Gary White. Chettri who has 59 International goals now, was in control of home side’s attacks from the start.
He shot wide from close in the fourth minute on Udanta’s cross from right as visitors survived nervous initial moments. He was close later on a freekick earned by him but it again went just wide. However, the talismanic striker was third time lucky in the 14th minute as he comfortably dribbled past advancing Chinese Taipei goalkeeper Wen-Chieh Pan to score.
Chhetri was making threatening runs on long balls sent in from Indian half. For a change Jeje got an aerial through ball and he showed awareness to shoot at goal in first attempt but Pan recovered in time to avert danger. Chhetri showed it again how it is done as he ran in from top of box and placed it smartly into the net from narrow angle in the 34th minute.
The young inexperienced Chinese Taipei side had no answers, their defence was in tatters as Chhetri frequently breached it after controling long balls and their midfield hardly built up any inspiring move. Forwards were hardly in the game in first half.
Indian coach Stephen Constantine had fielded an experienced side with Chhetri, Jeje upfront and Udanta, Holicharan Narzary operating from wings. The defence had experience of players like Sandesh Jhinghan, Anas Edathodika and Pronoy. Youngster Anirudh Thapa and Subhasish Bose on debut manned the mid-field.