Chhetri strike helps India edge Kyrgyzstan

Chhetri strike helps India edge Kyrgyzstan

Chhetri strike helps India edge Kyrgyzstan

Skipper Sunil Chhetri again rose to the occasion with a timely goal as India defeated Kyrgyzstan 1-0 in the AFC Asian Cup qualifier tie at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Tuesday.

After seeing his fellow forwards miss a clutch of chances, Chhetri took the matters into his hands, striking off a fine counter-attack in the 69th minute as India continued their solid run on the international stage, extending their winning streak to eight games.

The win also means the Indians top Group ‘A’ with six points while Kyrgyzstan, on three points, dropped to third — on goal difference — after Myanmar hit three past Macau in the other Group ‘A’ game earlier in the day.

After a frustrating period when a goal eluded them, all emotions that surrounded the Kanteerava for this long finally found the right avenue to explode as the Chhetri picked up a loose ball in his own half, ran past three defenders and found Jeje on the right. Jeje cleverly chipped the ball over a defender for his skipper to slot it past the Kyrgyz goalkeeper to give India the lead.

It turned out to be a vital breakthrough as the Indian attackers had found it hard to break down the Kyrgyzstan defence. Though Jackichand Singh and Jeje Lalpekhluha tried using their quick footwork to unsettle the opponents, the visitors were quick to regain possession and feed their forwards Mirlan Murzaev and Vitalij Lux with long balls.

The Indian defenders too put up a good show throughout the game as Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika marshaled their troops well to thwart any danger. A clinical defence meant the Kyrgyz were restricted to shooting from the distance. Both Murzaev and Lux tried their luck, but nothing could get past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the Indian goal as the Stebaek FC ’keeper guarded his goal with authority.

Though the Indians did take some time settle into the tie, once they found their rhythm, skipper Chhetri led the attack with intent as Jackichand, Jeje and Eugeneson Lyngdoh stepped up to create space.

Midway through the opening period Chhetri opened up the field with a sharp turn to find an unmarked Jackichand on the right. The Manipuri disappointed with his cross on the run while he didn’t do much after the rebound off a defender fell at his feet, skying a shabby shot.

Moments later, the two attackers combined once again but this time it was Holicharan Narzary who squandered the opportunity, hitting right at Pavel Matiash in the Kyrgyz goal.

Closer to the half-time whistle, there was a moment of commotion in the Indian penalty area but Sandhu was on top of his game as he denied Farkhat Musabekov from close range and later pulled off a fine save to stop Murzaev from ruffling his net.

Returning with much more intent and vigour, the Indians could have taken the lead right away, but Jeje’s shot off a Rowlin Borges cross went straight at Matiash. The Kyrgyz could have punished the Indians for their sloppiness in front of the goal, but to their dismay, when they did beat Sandhu in the India goal, the woodwork denied them. There was more disappointment in store for them late in the game as Chhetri turned the hero for India at the other end.