India 3-0 Maldives: Chhetri's brace inspires the Blue Tigers to three points
Two goals from Chhetri with a header by Syed Rahim Nabi sandwiched in between see India brush aside the Red Snappers to register their second consecutive win....
By Ayush Srivastava
A brace by Sunil Chhetri helped India beat Maldives 3-0 in a Nehru Cup group game held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi.
The Indian captain put the Blue Tigers ahead from the penalty spot in first half injury time, after Syed Rahim Nabi’s cross into the box was handled by a Maldives defender.Nabi then doubled India’s goal tally nine minutes into the second half, as he rose well to head in a deep corner taken by Clifford Miranda. Chhetri then headed in India’s third in the 70th minute to seal all three points for Wim Koevermans men.
The game did not start too brightly for India, as Subrata Paul had to rush out to clear the danger, after he was put under pressure by a weak back pass.
However soon India took hold of the proceedings and Chhetri had his first sight of goal but Mohd Arif snuffed out the chance before the Indian captain could make anything out of it.
India then though had to go through a couple of dicey moments as the Red Snappers looked to hit India on the counter but Subrata Paul kept their attackers at bay.
It soon became a very open encounter, with Sanju Pradhan and Clifford Miranda making good forays down the wing for India, but at the same time Raju Gaikwad and Subrata Paul needed to make last ditch interventions to prevent their opponents from taking the lead.
Francis Fernandes then had a good chance to head India ahead after some good build-up play between Pradhan and Chhetri, but the Goans header was straight at the keeper.
Maldives too had a couple of half chances at the other end, as Ali Ashfaq and Abdulla Asadhulla linked up well to give the Indian custodian a bit to worry about.
Just when it looked like the half would end goalless, India were handed a golden opportunity to go ahead, as Syed Rahim Nabi’s cross into the box was adjudged to have been handles by the Red Snappers defender.
Chhetri strode up confidently and put India ahead from the ensuing penalty, to ensure that the Blue Tigers went into the break with their noses ahead.
The Indian captain almost doubled his tally shortly after half-time, as a cross by Nabi, intended for half-time substitute Robin Singh, fell kindly to the Sporting Clube de Portugal “B” striker, who looked set to bury it in the back of the net, before a last ditch tackle saved the day for Maldives.
The Blue Tigers though didn’t have to wait too long to double their advantage, as the energetic Nabi rose well at the far post to head in Miranda’s corner in the 54th minute.
Soon afterwards, India, who were now completely the dominant side in the contest had another chance, but just as Chhetri was about to pull the trigger after a neat exchange with Robin Singh, Shafiu Ahmed intervened with a heroic block, to keep his side in the contest.
After a flurry of corners came the way of Wim Koevermans side, Robin Singh had a chance to cap a impressive debut with a goal, but the lanky forward failed to turn in a good cross by Francis Fernandes, who had really stepped it up a gear after moving to the right wing.
And more good work from the Goan saw India finally seal the points, as his terrific cross from the wing was met by an equally impressive header by Chhetri, sealing the points in the 70th minute.
The Indian captain then though had a moment to forget, as after having been played in by Miranda and going round the keeper, he hit the post with the goal wide open.
Anthony Pereira then came on for his Dempo team-mate Clifford Miranda and instantly took a freekick which was palmed out by the increasingly busy Maldives goalkeeper, for a corner.
Ali Ashfaq though refused to give up for the Islanders and fashioned a couple of chances for his side, however his teammates failed to capitalize on them.
Eventually the referee blew the final whistle, with India registering their second consecutive win in the competition with a convincing performance to build on for Wim Koevermans and moving to six points from 2 games.
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