New Delhi: Indian football team captain Sunil Chhetri became the fourth highest active international scorer on Tuesday, when he struck a decisive goal to guide his side to a 1-0 win over Kyrgyz Republic in a fast-pace and entertaining AFC Asian Cup qualifier match.
Chhetri scored his 54th international goal in 94 matches to snatch all three points from the 'favourite' Kyrgyz Republic and to stay atop the Group A, having bagged six points from two matches.
His 69th-minute goal proved enough to take India one step closer to break into the AFC Asian Cup after eight years.
On a counter-attacking move, Sunil dodged three opponent defenders and whizzed past them to put a through ball to Jeje Lalpekhlua.
Lalpekhlua minused it to his captain who eventually put it at the back of the net to send the 6000-strong spectators into a delirium.
With the 54th goal in bucket, Chhetri surpassed England's star player Wayne Rooney who now sits on the fifth position with 53 goals.
Chhetri's strike rate better than Ronaldo, Messi
Chhetri was playing in his 94th match. Chhetri, who turns 33 on August 3, is currently behind Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (73 in 139 matches), Argentine maestro Lionel Messi (58 in 118 matches) and American Clint Dempsey (56 in 134 matches).
Chhetri's strike rate is better than Ronaldo, Messi, Dempsey and Rooney. He has a goal per match ratio of 0.57 as against 0.525 of Ronaldo, 0.49 of Messi, 0.42 of Dempsey and 0.45 of Rooney.
Only Brazilian superstar Neymar Junior (0.68), Ali Ashfaq (0.68) of Maldives and Edin Dzeko (0.63) of Bosnia have a better strike rate then Chhetri. Remarkably, Chhetri is also in the top-30 of the all time goal scorers' chart (taking into account both retired and active players) and is certain to be among the top-20 when he decides to call it a day.
He would need to score just half a dozen more to reach 60 goals and that should put him in the top-20. Chhetri is expected to continue for at least a couple of years and he has expressed his desire to play in the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates if India qualify for this flagship continental tournament.
Chhetri is also just six short of playing in 100 matches for the country and if he does that he will join former Indian football's poster boy Bhaichung Bhutia who retired in 2011 after donning Indian jersey 109 times. Chhetri had surpassed Bhutia's record of most number of international goals -- 43 -- in 2013.