Maldives, October 10 – Taliban captain Sunil Chhetri equaled the great Pele with his 77th international goal as his 83rd-minute strike helped India beat Nepal 1-0 and win their first SAF Championship here on Sunday. Saved the team from the brink of collapse.
The 37-year-old Chhetri, playing his 123rd match for India, scored a late goal to level himself with the Brazilian great (77 goals in 92 matches). He is now joint third in the list of active footballers behind Cristiano Ronaldo (112) and Lionel Messi (79) along with Ali Mabkhout (77) of the United Arab Emirates.
@chetrisunil11: We’ve done a lot, right, and we need to improve on a lot of other things. we are still alive #SAFFChampionship2021, and we will keep improving #NEPIND #backw #blue tigers #indianfootball pic.twitter.com/JBrXM6yc5v
– Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) 10 October 2021
Substitute Farooq Choudhary somehow managed to win the header from a long throw-in and direct it towards the center of the six-yard box, where Chhetri himself to fire the ball past Nepal goalkeeper Kiran Limbu at the end of the match. Found it at the right place. Seven-time champions India are now third in the five-team table with five points from three matches, behind Maldives (6 points from three matches) and Nepal (6 points from three matches).
India will have to win their final round-robin league match against hosts Maldives on Wednesday if they want to make it to the final on October 16. A draw against Nepal would have put India on the verge of collapse.
The Indian team and its head coach Igor Stimac were under the pump after drawing draws against lower-order Bangladesh (1-1) and Sri Lanka (0-0) in their previous matches. Choudhary came to the ground in place of Mohammad. Yasir did it in the 70th minute.
India kept creating chances in the match and dominated the entire team. But he could not make the finishing touches in the few chances he got. Chhetri also missed a big chance to score in the first half.
India had drawn 0-0 against Nepal in their previous encounters this year before Sunday’s victory and defeated the Himalayan nation 2-0. PTI