India captain Sunil Chhetri scored a brace on Sunday to lead the home side to Intercontinental Cup title as the Blue Tigers beat Kenya 2-0 in the final at Mumbai Football Arena. Chhetri’s tally of 64 goals made him the joint second highest active international goalscorer along with Argentina’s Lionel Messi.
Chhetri, who had come into the match with 62 goals, now stands only second to Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who leads the table with 81 goals. The Indian captain scored in the eighth and the 29th minute to hand his side the trophy in front of a packed stadium. Chhetri has scored a total of eight goals in the tournament, three against Chinese Taipei, four against Kenya (two in league and two in final) and one against New Zealand.
Assisted by Anirudh Thapa, the first goal came after seven minutes when India were awarded a free-kick for a high boot on Chhetri by Kenyan defender Bernard Oginga. Taking the free kick just outside the box, Thapa lined it low into the box as Chhetri smashed it into the left-corner of the net.
Sunil Chhetri then doubled the lead for hosts in the first half with a fabulous first touch. Chhetri chested the ball down with a long diagonal from Sandesh Jhingan and slot it home with his left foot. Hero of the match Chhetri was presented with a cheque of $2500. He says, “Extremely happy. This is one tournament we really worked hard. We fought really hard. Thannk you Mumbai fans. This really means a lot.”
While India drew the first blood in the first half, it was the Kenyan domination that was the highlight of the second. If Chhetri was the man of the first-half, keeper Gurpeet Sandhu was for the second, keepinig a clean sheet despite continuous pressure in the Kenyan box.
Sandhu, who has not conceded a single goal this tournament, said after the match, “Not conceding a goal is like scoring a hat-trick for me. All the credit to the boys. Making saves is my job and I want to do my job. I do it because of my teammates, because they motivate me. This is a very, very important trophy for Indian football. Incredible work by us.”