World Cup qualifiers: Sunil Chettri brace helps India outgun Nepal
A brace from India’s goal-scoring machine Sunil Chhetri enabled India beat Nepal 2-0 in the World Cup Qualifiers Round 1 match in Sajusarai here on Thursday. Chhetri could have got his hat-trick, but for the rival goalkeeper saving his penalty later on in the game at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium. A Jackichand Singh strike was also disallowed by the referee. After a goalless first half, it was India’s talismanic striker who broke the deadlock 53 minutes into the game. After he latched onto the ball in the midfield, Chettri awed the spectators by unleashing a lethal left footer that ended up in the back of the net. Chettri doubled the lead in the 71st minute, again getting the better of the defenders as he collected the ball and placed it in with his right foot, beyond the reach of opposition custodian Kiran Kumar Limbu. It was quite interesting to see four Indian debutants in the starting XI. The number soared to seven by the time the game ended.
The home team enjoyed the greater share of possession during the opening exchanges but the game was initially starved of any clear cut opportunities. Nepal threatened the Indian citadel in the 25th minute when Bharat Khawas waltzed his way into the box and delivered an inch perfect through ball for Bimal. The youngster almost got there, but Indian custodian Subrata Paul beat him to it. After the hour mark, it was striker Robin Singh and Chhetri who combined to create the first real chance of the match for India, but the former’s shot sailed over. At the other end, Jagjeet Shrestha wrong footed Sandesh Jhingan in the 44th minute and ran past him but his shot was weak and off target as the teams went into the break goalless. After lemon time, both sides tried creating chances, which India finally managed to do as they got their first through a Chhetri screamer of the left-foot.
Jackichand’s goal was then disallowed for an off-side but Chhetri went about his merry ways as he netted his second of the evening driving forward from midfield and powering a shot into the net from outside the box. India’s new skipper Paul then had a bit of work to do in the 78th minute as he saved brilliantly from a Bimal free-kick. Two minutes later India were awarded a penalty as Cavin Lobo was brought down in the area, Chhetri stepped up to seal his hattrick but his low shot to the right was thwarted away by the Nepal custodian. Nepal tried hard, but it was not meant to be their way, as the Indian defenders stood firm to seal victory.