AFC Asian Cup qualifiers: Sunil Chhetri nets a brace as India cruise past Cambodia in opener
Indian men’s football team got off to a winning start in the third round of the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers as they eased past Cambodia 2-0 at the Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata on Wednesday.
India’s all-time leading goalscorer, Sunil Chhetri, further added to his remarkable goal tally in national colurs as his brace (14’(P), 60’) settled the contest in India’s favour.
The Blue Tigers dominated their south Asian opponents from minute one to last as Cambodia barely had a sniff at India’s goal all game.
A brace from captain @chetrisunil11 gets @IndianFootball a crucial win in the first match of the AFC #AsianCup2023 Qualifiers! 💪#INDCAM ⚔️ #BlueTigers 🐯 #BackTheBlue 💙 #IndianFootball ⚽ pic.twitter.com/OCiLi4hiR9— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) June 8, 2022
Cheered on by a vocal Salt Lake stadium, India started brightly attacking Cambodia from the word go. Brandon Fernandes launched India’s first attempt in the 8th minute from range but it went straight to the goalkeeper.
Four minutes later, Liston Colaco pounced on a piece on indecision in the Cambodian box to win the ball before being fouled by the opposition defender. The referee pointed to the spot allowing Chhetri to step up and smash home his 81st international goal to put India 1-0 up much to the pleasure of the crowd.
Captain @chetrisunil11 scored the opening goal from the spot after a penalty was awarded for a foul on @colaco_liston! 🔥— Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) June 8, 2022
Watch the #INDCAM game live on @DisneyPlusHS - https://t.co/3oXFeUXFZE and @OfficialJioTV#AsianCup2023 🏆 #BlueTigers 🐯 #BackTheBlue 💙 #IndianFootball ⚽ pic.twitter.com/Hzwd8apw74
Cambodia though did well to compose themselves after the early setback and held firm as India continued to peg them back in their own half.
Roshan Naorem then tried his luck from the distance in the 23rd minute as the full-back cut in from the left-hand side to attempt a shot that flew over the bar.
India’s only defensive action of note in the first half came in the 34th minute when Cambodia were able to send in a dangerous cross into the Indian box but Akash Mishra came back in time to clear the danger.
Mishra them made his presnce felt at the other end when his shot from distance stung the palms of the Cambodian goalkeeper as he did well to palm the powerful effort away four minutes from the half-time whistle.
A dominant India went into the break with their noses in front but without adding to their early lead.
Udanta Singh came on for Manvir Singh for the second half and India once again started on the front foot. Chhetri uncharacteristically headed a pin-point cross from Fernandes over in the 50th minute. However, ten minutes later, he made no mistake when Fernandes once again fed him with a cross this time at the far post where Chhetri sent a powerful header into the back of the net.
Fernandes was enjoying himself on the pitch and almost added a third with a long-range effort that flew inches over the crossbar.
Glan Martins and Ashique Kuruniyan came on in the second half as India chased a third goal and the latter came very close to getting it in the dying minutes when he made a darting run into the Cambodia box only to see his effort spectacularly saved by the goalkeeper.
India comfortably closed out the win to bag the three points and go top of the group.
The Blue Tigers next face Afghanistan on Saturday as they look to take against step toward the AFC Asian Cup.