Sunil Chhetri hits hat-trick,India sink Chinese Taipei 5-0 in Intercontinental Cup
kipper Sunil Chhetri scored a hat-trick as India hammered an inexperienced Chinese Taipei 5-0 in the opening game of the four-nation Intercontinental Cup football tournament here on Friday.
The striker, now one short of playing his 100th game, took his tally of international goals to 59 at the Mumbai Football Arena.
The hosts, using the tournament as preparation for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup to be held in the UAE, controlled the game from the first touch. Udanta Singh and Pronoy Halder deservingly got India’s third and fifth goals with brilliant individual efforts.
India coach Stephen Constantine deployed four men in attack with Holicharan Nazary and Udanta running riot on the wings while Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua occupied the central spots.
The frontline was complemented by 20-year-old Anirudh Thapa and Halder with Chhetri getting three off his five first-half chances within the first 15 minutes.
India’s record goal-scorer could have struck in the third minute itself. Jeje played it through to Udanta on the right and he pulled it back for Chhetri, who however shot wide.
Chhetri came agonisingly close from a free-kick moments before getting his first goal, set up by Jeje’s threaded pass. Chhetri collected the ball, took a touch to beat his man before guiding it into the corner.
Jeje and youngster Thapa continued to orchestrate from the middle and sent Chhetri through again, but his shot was saved by the outstretched leg of goalkeeper Wen-Chieh Pan.
India continued to press and Chhetri rounded off a wonderful team goal in the 34th minute. Jeje played a one-two with Thapa in the box before laying it on to Chhetri, who buried the shot from a difficult angle. A few minutes later, the 33-year-old striker failed to beat trying to chip the rushing goalkeeper.
India were off to a flying start in the second half as well. Udanta broke free on the right in the 48th minute and got past a Taipei defender before curling a shot into the far corner.
India created many other attempts that were kept out by the Taipei backline before Chhetri got his hat-trick in the 61st minute. Right-back Subhasish Bose played Chhetri on goal and the Bengaluru FC forward dispatched it to the top corner.
India sealed the win with a screamer from midfielder Halder, who guided the ball over the defensive line and beyond the keeper from the edge of the box.
A deserved victory for India, but it came against a young side that was probably playing together for the first time in national colours.
Taipei attackers Chao-an-Chen and William Donkin still managed to skip past Indian defenders and get shots away on a couple of occasions. India will have to address the issue before they face Kenya and New Zealand, who may field young teams as well but will certainly offer better resistance.