Skipper Sunil Chhetri found the target twice as a dominating India thrashed Guam 4-0 for its second win in as many matches in the AFC Challenge Cup Football Qualifiers, here on Monday.
Thanks to the convincing win, India, with six points, stayed very much in contention for winning a berth in next year’s AFC Challenge Cup.
Chhetri found the net on the 49th and 91st minute while the other two goals were scored by Clifford Miranda (68th) and Jewel Raja (80th) at the Youth Training Centre.
The Indians were completely off colour in the first half, but came out all guns blazing after the change of ends, with Chhetri leading from the front.
After a goalless first half, Chhetri drew the first blood four minutes after resumption. He followed Lenny Rodrigues’ through pass, beat the off-side trap and slotted it past the goalkeeper Douglas Herrick. The floodgates opened after the first strike.
The second one came in the 68th minute, this time, Miranda blasting home his left-footer after being set up by Mehtab Hossain.
Jewel placed the third goal to perfection after being found unmarked inside the box by substitute C.K. Vineeth while Chhetri scored the fourth, heading in a Mehtab corner in the 91st minute.
The goal took Chhetri’s tally of goals to 40, two short of India’s all-time scorer, former captain Bhaichung Bhutia.
It was a tactical display by the Indians against an opposition, which looked ultra-defensive at times. Finding it difficult to break free among the crowd of legs, the Indians preferred to use the flanks in the second half and open up the defence.
India had defeated Chinese Taipei 2-1 in its opening match of the AFC challenge cup qualifiers.
India had its first chance in the 19th minute when Syed Rahim Nabi set up Jewel inside the box. Jewel trapped it, sidestepped Guam’s central defender Travis Nicklaw but shot wide.
Two minutes later, Chhetri, playing a one-two with Nabi, entered the box, but Herrick was up to the task.
The Indians laboured hard and halfway into the first half, they were omnipresent on the field. Guam, by the 35th minute itself, had fallen down to defend. At times, one could see all of their eleven players in their own half.
There were a series of corners which India earned but it didn’t yield any result. In the 39th minute, a counter-attack saw Mehtab feeding Chhetri inside the box, but the fate didn’t change as both teams went into the break with a clean slate.
Changing over, the urgency was visible right from the kick-off. In the 46th minute, Lenny set up Miranda inside the box, but his powerful shot narrowly sailed over.
And almost immediately, India surged ahead. Lenny split the rival defence which saw Chhetri beat the off-side trap and slotted it past Herrick.
In the 56th minute, Mehtab found Clifford on the left flank, but Jewel failed to tap Clifford’s centre from inside the box.
A minute later, a build-up from the back had Guam chasing all quarters. It ended with Rodrigues’ shot missing the upright narrowly.
And then in the 58th minute, Chhetri’s powerful header off a Raju Gaikwad throw-in narrowly sailed over again, the third one in three consecutive minutes.
Guam however couldn’t hold on to it for long as India fired in three goals from after that.