Footy Times

An Indian football fairy tale in Mumbai; the hero Chhetri delivers to his overwhelming fans

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The Indian skipper scored a brace in his 100th international appearance for the national team.

Mumbai: India football captain Sunil Chhetri kept his words as he scored a brace against Kenya to delight his fans who had thronged the stadium after his impassionate appeal a day before the game.

The hosts beat the Africans 3-0 at a packed Mumbai Football Arena on Monday in which Chhetri surpassed Spanish forward David Villa for most international goals. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the only players above the Indian now in the record book.

Chhetri, who was playing his 100th international match, thanked his fans for responding to his plea to support football in India.

After the match between India and Kenya, All 7,000 tickets for India’s tie against New Zealand and the final were sold out as the immediate effect of his video appeal.

Chhetri had made the appeal on twitter after only 2,569 fans turned up to watch the national team play last week in which the Bengaluru super star scored a hat-trick against Chinese Taipei.

The Blue Tigers, coached by former Millwall boss Stephen Constantine, are now on top of the table in the Intercontinental Cup, a four-team tournament that also features New Zealand and Chinese Taipei. New Zealand has defeated Chinese Taipei by a solitary goal in the other match of the day.

In India’s second match of the campaign, Chhetri converted a penalty to put India ahead in the 68th minute before Jeje Lalpekhlua doubled the lead three minutes later with a rasping volley. Chhetri completed his brace in the injury time to seal India’s victory.

Heavy rains led to a slow start to the match as both the teams struggled for possession and rhythm. Visitors started the game on the front foot against the in-form home side. Sebastien Mignes experimental squad came close twice in the first half.

After the break India found momentum as the vociferous fans roared for the Blue Army. In the 68th minute India was awarded a controversial penalty after Chhetri was brought down. The Indian skipper scored with a powerful low-driven shot to give India the lead. Moments later, Jeje latched on to a brilliant low cross by Holicharan Narzary to take firm controll.

Chhetri, playing in his 100th international game, was felicitated by former skippers Baichung Bhutia and IM Vijayan. He was also given a guard of honour by his team-mates as his wife and parents watched from the stands.

Chhetri dedicated the win to his fans and congratulated the supporters for filling the stadium.

We promise you that if that’s the kind of support we get every time we play for the country, we will give our lives on the pitch. India, this night was special because we were in this together. Those in the stands shouting, and the ones at home cheering – thank you!” said Chhetri in his tweet.

In the next match India who are currently ranked 97 will take on 133 ranked New Zealand on Thursday.

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