India went to top of the table and enhanced their chances of reaching the finals of the Nehru Cup football tournament by thrashing South Asian rivals Maldives 3-0 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Saturday.
The Maldives have three points from two games while Cameroon and Syria have a point each. Nepal are yet to open their account. India dominated throughout, doing justice to coach Wim Koevermans idea of “total football”. India have six points from two games and have one foot in the final.
Lisbon ‘B’ striker Sunil Chetri scored a brace in the 45th and 70th minute with the Indian attackers and midfield running riot. Syed Rahim Nabi was the other goal scorer with a close range header from a Clifford Miranda corner in the 54th minute.
Maldives didn’t have a particularly good game with India goalkeeper Subrata Paul having to do very little. This was India’s second consecutive win over the Maldives with the previous one coming at the same venue in the semi-finals of the SAFF Cup. Chetri and Nabi were the chief architect in that match as well.
India did all the attacking early on and looked good with the ball finding the front men regularly.
India’s first chance came in the seventh minute from a Clifford Miranda corner. The Maldives goalkeeper made a complete hash of it but the ball didn’t fall to any Indian foot. The breakthrough finally came when Nabi’s cross struck the outreached hand of defender Mohamed Sifan. The referee immediately pointed to the spot.
Chetri coolly slotted in the penalty, sending Maldives goalkeeper Mohamed Imran the wrong way. Chetri had a golden opportunity to double India’s lead but his shot found a Maldivian defender in the way with Nabi again being the provider.
Chetri though did finally score. Francisco Fernandes’ inch perfect cross was met by the striker’s forehead. He could have easily had a hat-trick to his name a minute later but hit the woodwork after rounding off a hapless Maldives goalkeeper.
India next take on Nepal on Tuesday.