The Indian football team has some rising stars but one name that stands out is Delhi boy Sunil Chhetri who scored a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Tajikistan to lift the AFC Challenge cup final at the Dr. Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi. This win has qualified the Indian contingent for the 2011 Asian Cup in Doha.
Samir Naik's over excitement saw him challenge for every ball but his enthusiasm was short lived after a talking by the referee. This, though did not take away his exhilaration as he annoyed the Tajakistan forward Dzhomikhon Muhidinov till he got fed up and put in a nasty challenge ironically blaming the Indian defender. The referee handled the situation with much maturity in this one to one battle.
India's first goal came from a Renedy Singh cross that was shot in by Bhaichung Bhutia to be deflected of the cross bar for Sunil Chhetri to tap it in from less than 5 yards out. The linesman though called for an offside but was overruled by the referee through a later decision. The Tajakistan players were furious and surrounded the referee hounding him. But, the goal stood.
Renedy played his part in the second goal as well with a pin point cross to Bhaichung Bhutia who made no mistake in burying the ball into the keeper's net.
The Tajikistan players were unable to reply and only long shots towards Subrato Paul's goal saw the ball soaring high and not so pretty.
Naim Nasarov came closest but was unlucky to hit the cross bar twice, beating the keeper both times. Once with a chance after a deflection but no Tajikistan player to pounce on it.
India's third came in the 23rd minute with Sunil Chhetri turning and shooting past a stand still keeper.
Pradeep picked up an injury which gave way to Kashmir boy Mehrajuddin Wadoo whose thundering shot rattled the cross bar from 40 yards out.
Tajikistan were able to pull one back just a minute from half time through Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev shot from 25 yards out. It was all India in the first half though and this must have made coach Bob Houghton a much happy and satisfied man.
Two major tournaments in under a year must have added to Bob Houghton's credentials as a national team coach.
Sunil Chhetri finished his hat trick with a solo run from the half line to push the ball past the advancing keeper. Leaving the 20000 odd crowd in a state of sheer ecstasy.
Final Score: 4-1
Goalscorers India: Sunil Chhetri (9th, 23rd & 75th) and Bhaichung Bhutia (19th)
Tajikistan: Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev (44th)