The wait has been a long one. Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri on Wednesday opened his account in the Indian Super League (ISL) with a fine brace to guide Mumbai City FC to a 2-0 win over Delhi Dynamos at the DY Patil stadium.
Chhetri has never been goal-shy. He is, in fact, India’s all-time top goalscorer. But it came after an entire season and one match. Last season, as the inaugural edition of the ISL kicked off, Chhetri turned out for I-League side Bengaluru FC after it emerged the club had not aligned with the franchise-based league.
“I wanted to play in ISL. To play alongside players like Nicolas Anelka is obviously something you want to do as a professional footballer,” Chhetri had said.
This season the embargo ended and Chhetri was in the reckoning for the ISL. Mumbai City FC picked him up for `1.2 crore, the most expensive player in the auction. He made sure it started paying dividends for his team.
However, despite his grand entry, he had to miss the first game due to national duty. On his return, he failed to make an impact playing on the right in a 4-3-3 formation. Against Delhi, he found his groove with manager Nicolas Anelka employing a 4-4-2 line-up.
“He was like a fish in water,” said Mumbai’s assistant coach Oscar Bruzon. “He was very comfortable in the position.”
Chhetri scored in either half, giving Mumbai their first win of the season and halting Delhi’s three-match winning run. Mumbai had been struggling to find goals this season. In three games prior to Wednesday’s clash, they managed only one. Chhetri is among the few footballers in the world who represent three teams simultaneously. He represents India, Bengaluru FC and, on Wednesday, he announced himself as the main marksman for Mumbai City FC.
With Anelka directing action from the sidelines and medio Andre Moritz flying back home, the onus was on Chhetri to provide the impetus. He played an aggressive game. He did not shy away from moving back when needed and was ready to chase after the ball.
The overzealousness though earned him a yellow card after a brash tackle. In fact, Mumbai City earned seven yellow cards in the game. Delhi too saw four cards.