JUNE 4, 2018
India beat Kenya by 3-0 in Mumbai on Monday to make it two wins in as many matches in the four-nation Intercontinental Cup. Skipper Sunil Chhetri marked his 100th appearance for the Blue Tigers with a brace (68′ and 90+2′) while Jeje Lalpekhua found the net for the hosts in the 71st minute.
India gaffer Stephen Constantine repeated the same winning combination from the Chinese Taipei encounter as Jeje Lalpekhlua continued to lead the attack. As for Kenya, defender Odhiambo Dennis was named into the side in place of striker John Makwata, and Timothy Omwenga came on for Erick Ouma in a last-minute change.
Early in the first half, India created an opportunity from the left-flank as winger Udanta Singh marshalled through the wings. The youngster however whipped in the cross too early inside the 18-yard-box, which destroyed the build-up in the seventh minute.
Advancing into the second quarter, the heavy showers caused trouble for the Kenyans as their misjudgment of the bounce allowed centurion Chhetri to pounce on a loose ball. Aiming to lob it over custodian Matasi, Chhetri released a curler from outside the box but it sailed over the bar.
Minutes later, goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh pulled off a save by diving to his left, in an attempt to obstruct midfielder Omoto’s delivery from the corner.
Failing to provide any end product due to the puddles formed on the field, the first half saw no goals as the two teams walked off at the break with the deadlock yet to be broken.
The second half brought with it an entertaining start as both outfits created chances in front of the goal. First, Kenya’s Ochieng exploited the Indian defence by storming through the left-side but he could only release a loose shot which rolled past Gurpreet between the sticks. Later, Mutamba sent a similar wide effort.
In the 51st minute, an onrushing Jeje latched onto Chhetri’s delivery after the skipper chested it down but the Mizoram-born player’s strike went over the target. Moments later, Chhetri had a chance to find the net on his special day when Narzary’s cross was only half-cleared by the opposition and fell into his feet, but the Bengaluru stalwart failed to connect with the ball.
In the 68th minute, Chhetri finally graced his 100th appearance with a goal from the spot after he was brought down by Kibwage inside the box.
Calm as ever, the skipper sent the ball into the top corner to draw the first blood in the match. Just three minutes later, Jeje doubled India’s lead with a close-range effort which thumped into the net. A Narzary cross was blocked by the Kenyan defense but it fell into the path of Jeje who swung it beyond the reach of Matasi.
In the dying moments of the game, Chhetri registered his second strike. As India broke away on the counter, Chhetri got in behind the sluggish Kenyan defence to lob the ball over a helpless Matasi with Balwant providing the assist. The three goals were enough to make the hosts walk off with full points at the final whistle, thereby also confirming their spot in the final match of the four-nation tournament. India will play New Zealand next on June 7.