Chhetri Goals Give India Win vs Bangladesh in Asian Cup Qualifier
Chhetri’s goals also made him the first Indian footballer to score an international goal in 3 different decades.
Indian captain Sunil Chhetri yet again led by example as Igor Stimac’s saw off a resolute and well drilled Bangladesh 2-0 in Doha in the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualifiers.
Chhetri’s goals helped India register their first win of the stage and were also the first two goals they scored from open play. Chhetri’s goals also made him the first Indian footballer to score an international goal in 3 different decades.
The win puts India in third place behind Qatar and Oman and ahead of Bangladesh and Afghanistan. India, who are out of contention for a berth in Qatar, will be aiming to qualify directly for the 2023 Asian Cup in China.
The India captain, who scored his 73rd and 74th international goals, is second behind Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, who has 103 international goals. Chhetri is also now the top 10th highest goal-scorer in men's international football, one ahead of United Arab Emirates' Mabkhout.
Lionel Messi has 72 international goals in 143 appearances for Argentina.
India welcomed back their creative midfielder Brandon Fernandes, who added plenty of bite to the attack and causing the opposition a fair bit of concern. The Goan playmaker carved open the opposition defense early in the first half with a beautiful pass through the middle for Manvir Singh, who could not finish.
Bangladesh, along expected lines, sat back in a low block asking India to take the initiative, who dominated possession but failed to make it count.
India’s best chance to take the lead came just after the half hour mark from a corner taken by Brandon. Defender Chinglengsana, who also returned to the lineup today, however, saw his header cleared off the line.
Desperate to finish off the group stage with a win, India continued to throw men in attack with great regularity but sloppy finishing let them down repeatedly. Senior players Chhetri and Sandesh Jhingan were both guilty of poor finishing as Bangladesh continued to frustrate India, much like the first leg at the Salt Lake Stadium when the visitors had taken the early lead.
With time ticking away, Stimac brought on Liston Colaco as his third change, having already pulled off wingers Udanta Singh and Bipin at half time, hoping to inject more venom into the attack.
India finally found the back of the net on the 79th minute when substitute Ashique Kuruniyan’s superb cross made its way to Chhetri at the back post, who made no mistake this time, heading back across goal and into the side netting for the lead.
Bangladesh went in search of an equalizer in the final ten minutes but it was India who had the last laugh when Suresh Wangjam cut it back for Bengaluru FC teammate and captain Chhetri, who promptly put it into the top corner well past the keeper to bag the three points.
This was Croatian Igor Stimac’s second win in 14 games in charge of the Indian men’s football team. India had drawn the return fixture against Bangladesh 1-1 in Kolkata in 2019.
India play Afghanistan on 15 June in their final group stage game, and will look to seal third spot.
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