Sunil takes India closer to AFC Asian Cup

BENGALURU: Sunil Chhetri scored his 54th international goal in 94 matches to snatch all three points from favourites Kyrgyz Republic to stay atop the Group A having bagged six points from two matches. Sunil’s 69th minute goal proved enough to take India one step closer to break into the AFC Asian Cup after 8 years.
The game started on an even note as India, clad in a new jersey, kickstarted the game from left to right. The visitors, who are placed at 132 in Fifa rankings, kept up the momentum in the early minutes of the game. They earned two corners in a quick succession within first 10 minutes but the resilient Indian defenders saw the danger off with much ease.
Time and again, the Kyrgyz Republic tried to consolidate their attacks from the flanks but Pritam Kotal, who had a brilliant game throughout, thwarted their moves.
After the clock passed 20-minute mark, Indians slowly came back into the game. Jeje Lalpekhlua and Jackichand Singh, aided by none other than Sunil ‘Captain’ Chhetri imposed quite a few threatening moves from both the flanks.
In the 23rd minute, Sunil unleashed along-ranger towards Jackichand but his left-footer dropped on the roof of the net.
Three minutes later, India imposed another attack built up by the trio but Sunil’s shot was gloved by the opposition goalie. Just at the stroke of the half-hour mark, the Kyrgyz Republic were awarded an indirect free-kick but Indian defenders snapped it off. In the additional time, Sunil Chhetri built up another attack from the middle but finally, it fizzled out. The Central Asian outfit imposed a few attacking moves towards the end but Gurpreet Singh Sandhu snatched it to relieve the Indian dugout.
In the 69th minute, Chhetri showed it once again why he’s rated so high by the opposition. On a counter-attacking move, Sunil dodged three opponent defenders and whizzed past them to put a through ball to Jeje Lalpekhlua. The ‘2016 AIF Player of the Year’ minused it to his captain who eventually put it at the back of the net to send the 6,000-strong spectators into a delirium.
India will now travel to Macau for their third match in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Qualifiers on September 5.