Sunil Chhetri scores brace as India beat Kenya 2-0 to win the Intercontinental Cup

Skipper Sunil Chhetri led from the front once again, scoring a brace of spectacular goals to fashion India’s 2-0 victory over Kenya in the final of the Intercontinental Cup at Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday.

Chhetri, who had scored in each of three league games earlier, displayed similar intensity in the final and took his tally of goals in the tournament to eight, which is a personal record for him in a tournament.

His second goal, which was the 64th of his career, also saw him equal Argentina striker Lionel Messi’s tally and in the process made him the joint-second active international goal scorer only behind Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo.

India were back to their full strength with all seven players, who were rested for the tie against New Zealand, returning to the side. Cheered on by partisan crowd with majority of them togged up in blue, the home side went on attack from the outset.

The team’s attacking game paid rich dividends as early as in the 8th minute when Bernanrd Oginga gave away a free-kick for a high boot on Chhetri from Pritam Kotal’s throw-in.

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Anirudh Thapa, who has been impressive throughout the tournament, passed a low horizontal ball from the free-kick as Chhetri came back off the line and netted the ball home to give hosts the lead.

The Indian captain doubled the lead in the 29th minute with a superb left-footed effort. Anas Edathodika had lofted a long ball and Chhetri came between Atudo and Kibwage to strike the ball past Kenyan custodian Patrick Musotsi with elan.

With India bossing the game, the only way Kenya could have made a comeback by launching a counterattack, however, their efforts to make inroads into Indian defence proved futile and only added to their desperation.

After an electrifying first half, the second half turned out to be a bit of drab affair with both sides unable to breach each other’s defence. Though the visitors did create a couple of opportunities after the change of end, they proved no match to the brilliance of Indian custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who didn’t let anything go past his towering frame. It was a memorable tournament for the Indian goalkeeper as he didn’t concede even a single goal throughout the tournament.

India will now eye doing well in next year’s AFC Asian Cup in the UAE.

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