India's talisman Sunil Chhetri led by an example on Tuesday night as the 32-year-old struck the winning goal in the 69th minute against Kyrgyz Republic to send the hosts to the top of Group A in the 2019 Asian Cup qualification. The 1-0 result against The White Falcons at the Sree Kantreerava Stadium meant that Stephen Constantine's men have now won eight games on the trot.
Describing the thrilling victory at Bengaluru, captain Chhetri termed it as a cumulative effort of the Blue Tigers . The Secunderabad-born player stated that the squad was thrashed by the boss at the half-time whistle following a shoddy performance on the field. However, Sunil added that his side bounced back hard in the latter half to put one on the score-board and applauded each one for their contribution.
''I have played for the national team for the last 12 years and this is, by far, one of the best performance. We got battered by the coach at half-time because in the first half we gave them the ball. We showed character and came back. What a performance from everyone, right from goalkeeper to every player! This is by far one of the best games I played in my career,'' he expressed.
The skipper gave the lead to Constantine's army in the second half following a sublime cross from team-mate Jeje Lalpekhlua from the right. Speaking of the winning strike, the Bengaluru FC custodian mentioned that he kept going despite being challenged upon, a few times and eventually found the back of the net.
''I got the tackle first time, I could have taken a tumble but I told myself ‘don’t fall’. I got a tackle the second time, I told myself ‘don’t fall’. Later, I gave it to Jeje (Lalpekhlua), and got a good ball and scored. It was a good feeling. However, after 30 seconds of the celebration, I looked at the clock and told every player and the game isn’t over,'' he explained.
The exemplary performance from Chhetri made an impression on each spectator, especially after his absence in the previous game at Mumbai. Following his recovery, the gaffer decided to rest him for the international tie against Nepal. Speaking of his non-appearance in the team versus The Gorkhalis , he remarked, ''It was a big game and I was kept hungry. I was frustrated when the medical staff told me you are not fit. As a player you want to play exhibition, five-a-side, everything. I wasn’t happy, even though I was rested for the right reasons.''
Lastly, the prolific striker debated the importance of the goal claiming that it had sealed three points which were really needed for the country's run. The win at Bengaluru meant that India have bagged six points till now and Chhetri hopes to continue the winning streak.
''It (The goal) is right out there. I have answered this again and again. Right from the importance, the way it happened. These three points, at this juncture, are massive. This goal was one part of what we did today. That’s why the goal is important. I can’t tell you how important it is! Hope we qualify for the Asia Cup,'' he signed off.