Father-to-be Sunil Chhetri’s Goal Secures India’s 1-0 Victory over Vanuatu in Intercontinental Cup.
India secures a 1-0 victory over Vanuatu in the Intercontinental Cup with Sunil Chhetri’s crucial goal. (Photo By PTI)
India emerged victorious in the Intercontinental Cup clash against underdog Vanuatu with a narrow 1-0 triumph at Kalinga Stadium on Monday.
The home team owed their win to captain Sunil Chhetri’s decisive goal in the 80th minute, which brought relief to both players and fans.
Chhetri’s 81st-minute strike further solidified his status as the third-most prolific active player, marking his 135th international appearance.
Celebrating the goal, Chhetri slid the ball beneath his jersey, revealing his growing belly, as his wife Sonam applauded from the stands.
This victory followed India’s earlier 2-0 win over Mongolia in the tournament’s opening match on Friday.
With two wins under their belt, India currently sits at the top of the table with six points in the Intercontinental Cup. Their final round-robin league match is scheduled against Lebanon on Thursday.
Despite being ranked 101st in the world, India dominated the first half of their previous game, displaying 62% ball possession and creating numerous goal-scoring opportunities, although many shots missed the target. In contrast, their opponents Vanuatu are placed 164th in the FIFA rankings.
A standout performance came from debutant Nandhakumar Sekar, who showcased his skills in the midfield and played a crucial role in several Indian attacking moves.
Despite being heavily involved in India’s attacking play, debutant Nandhakumar Sekar squandered a golden opportunity in the 36th minute, missing the target after a well-executed through ball from Mahesh Naorem.
Another precise cross from Naorem in the 40th minute found Sunil Chhetri unmarked, but the ball narrowly evaded the India captain’s head, with only the goalkeeper to beat.
As halftime drew near, India intensified their efforts to find a breakthrough and constantly applied pressure in Vanuatu’s defensive third. However, despite their dominance, coach Igor Stimac’s team failed to convert their chances into goals.