Chhetri's 21 minutes of fame
It was a historic occasion for his club, and a momentous one for Sunil Chhetri, who played for only the second time with the senior squad of the Kansas City Wizards, as they defeated visiting Manchester United 2-1, for the biggest win in the history of the club.sports Updated: Jul 26, 2010 23:59 IST
It was a historic occasion for his club, and a momentous one for Sunil Chhetri, who played for only the second time with the senior squad of the Kansas City Wizards, as they defeated visiting Manchester United 2-1, for the biggest win in the history of the club.
A record crowd of over 52,000 gathered at Kansas City's newly renovated Arrowhead stadium, to watch their team take on one of the giants of world football, with a lineup including the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Nani. And they were treated to a spectacle complete with thrills, spills and controversy.
If the home team were intimidated, they certainly didn't show it, and it took just 11 minutes for in-form striker Davy Arnaud to give the Wizards a surprise lead. The pressure was all on the visitors in the first half. In the 41st minute though, the Wizards let United back into the game. Jimmy Conrad fouled Dimitar Berbatov, getting himself a red card, and allowing the United striker to level scores from the penalty spot.
The boos that rang out in the stadium when he scored, indicated that the home crowd was less than pleased with referee Terry Vaughn's decision to send off Conrad. In the very next minute, though, Wizards' striker Kei Kamara headed home a Ryan Smith corner. Replays showed that the entire ball may not have crossed the line, but the goal stood, and this time the crowds weren't complaining.
Despite being down to 10 men for the entire second half, the Wizards refused to let the United strikers find the back of their net. The 69th minute though, was the one that every football fan in India was waiting for. The first Indian to join an MLS team finally took to the pitch and was deployed as lone striker by his manager.
Chhetri replaced Teal Bunbury, but had a relatively quiet game. He was unlucky to come on at that late stage, because the Wizards, with only 10 men on the field, were playing with a defensive mindset, and were not able to feed the ball up to their frontman.
The India striker did his bit though, looking lively in his 21 minutes on the field, and getting two shots on goal, even though neither really troubled the keeper. His movement, made sure that the United defence were kept too busy to assist their team in attack.
Chhetri became the second Indian to play against Manchester United. Current India captain Bhaichung Bhutia was the first when he faced United in a friendly with English club Bury.
Chhetri and his fans will be hoping now that his role in Sunday's win will bring him his MLS debut in the near future.