Mumbai: Captain. Leader, Legend. There are a plethora of words in the dictionary you could tag Sunil Chhetri with and he will find a way to keep you entertained at the edge of the seat till the final whistle. It was that man again who hogged the limelight on Sunday as India ran out comfortable winners clinching the 2018 Intercontinental Cup with a thumping 2-0 victory over Kenya at the Mumbai Football Arena in Andheri.
The visitors were sloppy in possession as India dominated proceedings at the start. Kenya surged forward on multiple occasions but Anas Edathodika at the heart of defence kept danger away with vital interceptions.
It took just a matter of eight minutes for India to break the deadlock after Bernard Oginga fouled Chhetri on the edge of the box. In charge of the set-piece, Anirudh Thapa drilled in a low cross towards the unmarked forward, who made no mistake to tuck it into the bottom left corner as India took the lead. The Harambee Stars continued to tests the hosts but lacked the cutting edge in the final third.
As the clock approached the half-hour mark, Chhetri once again got his name on the scoresheet to send the crowd into frenzy. Anas lofted a clever long ball towards the skipper, whose exquisite one touch was good enough to beat both his markers Jockin Atudo and Erick Oteindo. Finding space into the box, the Bengaluru forward unleashed a shot of his weaker foot, presenting no chance to Patrick Matasi.
In an attempt to inject more attacking threat, Sebastian Migne made his first substitution of the night bringing in John Makwata for the ineffective Kenneth Muguna. The visitors made desperate attempts to carve out an opener but failed as the Blue Tigers tightened screws.
Kenya approached the game with added intensity later on, something that was missing from them in the first break. Holding a commanding position, Stephen Constantine brought in fresh legs in the form of Rowllin Borges and Balwant Singh, deploying a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Substitute Makwata and striker Ochieng combined well to cause endless troubles in the opposition half but a string of fine saves by custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu left the Africans frustrated. Full back Otiendo caused havoc on the left channel but even his crosses failed to find bodies inside the box.
Chhetri joins Messi
When Sunil Chhetri scores, you can’t do much but stand and applaud the skipper. It was the same case on Sunday evening as his double proved to be the difference maker on the night.
Having found the back of the net in all the encounters so far, the poster boy of Indian football extended his tally to eight goals in four matches. While our own hero may not be in action at the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, he made a case to dominate the headlines once again.
Chhetri caught up with Argentina skipper Lionel Messi as the second highest joint-active international goal scorer (64), only second to Portugal favourite Cristiano Ronaldo. From helping out in defence, linking up play in the middle and devising clever runs, he was all over the pitch. It was another commanding display from the skipper, who lead from the front.