Mumbai, June 11
Inspirational captain Sunil Chhetri scored a brace to put himself on par with Lionel Messi and lead India to the Intercontinental Cup title with a 2-0 win over Kenya in the summit clash here today.
Playing in his 102nd international match, Chhetri struck in the eighth and 29th minutes to hand a dominant India the trophy.
The 33-year-old’s double strike capped a brilliant tournament which saw him score eight out of India’s 11 goals and put him on par with Argentine superstar Messi with 64 strikes for the country. He is the joint second highest international goal-scorer among active players.
He had scored three against Chinese Taipei, two each against Kenya in the league game and the final and one against New Zealand.
Chhetri gave India the lead off a set-piece, assisted by Anirudh Thapa. Kenyan defender Bernard Oginga gave away a silly free-kick to India for a high-boot on Chhetri after a throw-in by Pritam Kotal. The 20-year-old Thapa took the free-kick just outside the box and Chhetri connected the ball into the left-corner of the net.
The talismanic Indian captain doubled the lead just before the half-hour mark. Anas Edathodika lofted a pass to Chhetri who controlled the ball nicely on his chest between Kenyan defenders Jockins Atudo and Micheal Kibwage before firing in a low left-footer from inside the box which gave absolutely no chance to keeper Patrick Matasi.
Chhetri had a chance to score another hat-trick but he shot over the bar off a free-kick in the 43rd minute.
The star for India in the second half was their custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who ensured a clean sheet with some of his breathtaking saves.
In the 46th minute, Kenya’s best chance came when Ovella Ochieng took a shot from a distance but Sandhu made a diving save. Chances kept coming for Kenya, but they were not able to convert them. In the 60th minute, Ochieng launched another long-ranger but Sandhu came to the rescue.
Whenever it looked like Kenya had a chance, Sandhu stood in their way. The Indian defence, which was shaky in their loss against New Zealand, was solid today. Holicharan Nazary and Sandesh Jhingan were simply outstanding.