Mumbai: Inspirational Indian captain Sunil Chhetri scored a brace to put himself on par with Lionel Messi and lead the home side to Intercontinental Cup title triumph with a 2-0 win over Kenya in the summit clash here today.
Playing in his 102nd international match, Chhetri struck in the eighth and 29th minutes to hand a dominant India the trophy to the wild celebration of the home fans at the Mumbai Football Arena here.
The 33-year-old Chhetri’s double strike capped a brilliant tournament which saw him score eight out of India’s 11 goals and put him on par with Argentine superstar Messi with 64 strikes for the country to be the joint second highest international goal scorer among active players.
He had scored three against Chinese Taipei, two each against Kenya in the league game and the final today and one against New Zealand.
Chhetri gave India the lead off a set-piece, assisted by Anirudh Thapa. Kenyan defender Bernard Oginga gave away a silly free-kick to India for a high-boot on Chhetri after a throw-in by Pritam Kotal. The 20-year-old Thapa took the free-kick just outside the box and Chhetri connected the ball into the left corner of the net.
The talismanic Indian captain doubled the lead just before the half-hour mark. Anas Edathodika lofted the ball to Chhetri who controlled the ball nicely on his chest between Kenyan defenders Jockins Atudo and Micheal Kibwage before firing in a low left-footer from inside the box which gave absolutely no chance to keeper Patrick Matasi.
Chhetri had a chance to make it 3-0 and score another hat-trick but he shot over the bar off a free-kick in the 43rd minute. At the half-way stage, India were 2-0 ahead.
The star for India in the second half was their custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who ensured a clean sheet with some of his diving and breath-taking saves.
In the 46th minute came Kenya’s best chance when Ovella Ochieng took a shot from a distance but Gurpreet made a diving save and the rebound went over the bar.
Chances kept coming for Kenya, but they were not able to convert them. In the 60th minute, Ochieng launched another long-ranger but Gurpreet came to the rescue as he pushed the ball back to be cleared by his defenders.
Whenever it looked like Kenya had a chance, Gurpreet stood in their way. In the 76th minute, Ochieng hit from outside the box off a free-kick, but the India custodian palmed it away.
The Indian defence, which was shaky in their 1-2 loss against New Zealand, was solid today as they kept the Kenyan strikers at bay. Especially, Holicharan Nazary and Sandesh Jhingan were simply outstanding.
India were back as a full strength side for the final after the head coach Stephen Constantine effected seven changes in the last league game against New Zealand, which they lost 1-2.
Would be sitting at home if I think like people from outside: Kohli
Mumbai: Virat Kohli said he would be “sitting at home if he thinks like people from outside”, responding, in his trademark combative style, to Gautam Gambhir’s recent jibe at him, but without taking the former opener’s name.
Gambhir, who led Kolkata Knight Riders to two IPL trophies in 2012 and 2014, recently said that in a result-oriented franchise environment, Kohli has been “lucky” to have survived despite Royal Challengers Bangalore never winning the coveted title in his eight years as skipper.
Asked about it, the batting maestro said, “Obviously, you want to win the IPL. I am doing what I am supposed to do. I don’t care whether I am going to be judged on this (not winning IPL) or not. There is no real, sort of, parameters you set. I try to perform wherever I can. I try to win all the possible titles, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.
“We have to be practical about why we haven’t won one. That boils down to bad decision making in pressure situations. If I think like people from outside, I can’t even sustain five games. I would be sitting at home,” Kohli said.
According to Gambhir, one can’t say Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the same breath, as India’s current captain has not won the IPL even once in comparison to his predecessor’s three. Gambhir also compared Kohli with his national team deputy Rohit Sharma, who too have three IPL titles to his credit.
“I know people talk about it a lot and they like to grab opportunities to talk about these things. But I have a responsibility here and given a chance, as a captain, I would love to win the IPL for my team.
“We all are motivated to do so. It has not happened and that’s the reality. No excuses for that. Only acceptance of the faults that we made in the past. The fact that we played six semi-finals means that we have been a side who are always in contention. If we make better decisions, we can go further than that. That’s how I see things,” Kohli added.
The Indian captain was speaking on the eve of the IPL 12 opener between his team and Chennai Super Kings.
To a question if he felt RCB were the underdogs against CSK at home, he said every team that comes here has to be considered so, with the home team being led by Dhoni.
“MS knows exactly what he wants from his team in these conditions. We all have seen that and are aware of it. We are going to be backing our skills and then find ways to come out on top.
“It’s very easy to be overawed by the support that CSK are going to get. In the IPL, people can get carried away by the support that a team like CSK gets at home but we have to focus on our basics.”Kohli also said RCB’s focus this year would be on being consistent and scratching their way to wins.
“It again boils down to how much composure you have in crunch situations. If you see all the teams that have won, they have had players who have stood up and done the job.
“In the past, when we have been close to winning the title, we have just expected things to go our way instead of standing up. That is something we want to correct this season. If we look ugly, we look ugly. It doesn’t matter. We don’t want to be a side just playing flamboyant cricket. We want to be a consistent side,” Kohli said.
AIFF deny I-League clubs’ request to reschedule qualifiers
Mumbai: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has denied the I-League clubs’ request to restart the 2019 Super Cup, Goal can confirm.
Nine I-League clubs had earlier informed the Indian FA that they are willing to take part in the Super Cup 2019 after AIFF president Praful Patel reached out to the clubs on Thursday and assured them that he will hold a meeting with them in mid-April.
After initially deciding to withdraw from the competition citing AIFF’s unfair treatment towards the clubs, the I-League clubs’ unison expressed their willingness to take part in the knock-out competition if all the clubs are allowed to take part.
However, as Goal reported earlier, matches given as walkovers cannot be replayed according to the regulations of the national cup competition. The AIFF has made it clear to the clubs that the regulations must be adhered to and that it would be unfair towards the opposing teams – Delhi Dynamos, FC Pune City and Chennaiyin FC – that took the field for the matches which did not take place.
Minerva Punjab, Gokulam Kerala FC and Aizawl FC failed to turn up for their Super Cup qualifiers on March 15 and March 16.
Due to the I-League clubs’ absence on the match days, the AIFF awarded Delhi Dynamos, FC Pune City and Chennaiyin FC wins by virtue of walkovers.
Neymar charged for ‘insulting’ referee in Man United defeat
London: Paris St Germain forward Neymar has been charged for “insulting and/or molesting” the referee following his post-game rant after the French side were knocked out of the Champions League last 16 by Manchester United, UEFA said.
Neymar, who was sidelined by injury, was investigated for lashing out and labelling the video assistant referee (VAR) system a “disgrace” after United won a controversial penalty in the dying stages to advance on away goals.
“Disciplinary proceedings have been opened following the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United FC (1-3), played on 6 March in France,” UEFA said in a statement.
“Player Neymar Junior – insulting / molesting acts against match official (statements made by the player following the above-mentioned match) – Art. 15 (1) (d) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations.”
If the Brazilian is found guilty, he could be suspended for three matches in the competition for insulting match officials.
UEFA’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body will look into the case and a date for the hearing is yet to be confirmed.
PSG coach Thomas Tuchel had said after the game that he understood Neymar’s anger and defended his comments, saying they were made in the heat of the moment.