Sunil Chhetri becomes India's all-time leading scorer as India beat Nepal 2-0
Sunil Chhetri became India's all-time top scorer courtesy of his first half strike against Nepal in an international friendly at the Kanchanjangha stadium in Siliguri.
The striker has earned the record with a better strike rate over former skipper Bhaichung Bhutia.
Bhutia had scored 42 international goals in 107 matches, while it took Chhetri just 80 matches to score his 43rd goal after equalling the Sikkimese sniper's record in the match against Philippines on Friday.
The next three top scorers for India are I.M. Vijayan with 40 goals from 79 matches, Shabbir Ali with 23 goals from 72 matches, and P.K. Banerjee with 19 goals from 36 matches.
Chhetri gave India the lead with a 21st minute strike to go past former captain Bhaichung Bhutia's 42 international goals before Clifford Miranda added another in the 49th as India produced a dominant display over Nepal at the Kanchenjunga Stadium.
The win, which avenged India's 1-2 defeat against the same opponents in the SAFF Championships, was also the first international friendly victory for Wim Koevermans as head coach this year.
India had lost to Palestine (2-4) and Tajikistan (0-3) earlier in the year before drawing against Philippines 1-1 on November 16 here.
Bhaichung, who watch the match from the stands, came down at the pitch after the match and congratulated Chhetri with a hug for surpassing his record.
The build-up for India's first goal came from Clifford Miranda on the left. Robin Singh, whose physical presence was a constant threat for Nepal, headed in Clifford's cross but could not beat the rival goalkeeper Kiran Limbu. But Chhetri was there to slot the ball home for his 43rd goal to the wild cheer of the 15,000-odd crowd.
Most of play remained confined to Nepal half in the first session and their goalkeeper Limbu had a busy day under the bar while his Indian counterpart Karanjit Singh rarely collected the ball.
Once Limbu palmed Robin's right-footer, the other time, he gathered Chhetri's powerful right-footer from close. The Nepalese goalkeeper had to tip over those several aerial crosses from the flanks as India went into the interval with a 1-0 lead. Just four minutes after change of ends, Clifford doubled the lead for India. The counter-attack was initiated by Mehtab who laid Robin on the right flank. Robin's grounder was neatly tapped in by Miranda in the 49th minute.
Lalrindika Ralte, who played in tandem with Mehtab Hossain, had his push narrowly miss the mark in the 59th minute. Even as the ball bounced awkwardly in front of him, Ralte managed to keep it down but even with Limbu beaten, it went out.
The next minute, Robin hit the bar. This time, an overlapping debutant Narayan Das, the 476th player to have played for India, ran past the entire midfield and left it for Robin. But Robin's powerful shot bounced off the upright.
Soon Victorino Fernandes became the 477th player to have played for India when he came on as a substitute for Francis Fernandes in the 75th minute and then, Rocus Lamare came on for Lalrindika Ralte in the 83rd minute. Next, in the 85th minute, CK Vineeth replaced Miranda.
By then, Victorino had already created an impression on the right. His sudden burst of pace caught the rival defence on the wrong foot twice.
India: Karanjit Singh, Denzil Franco, Arnab Mondal, Aiborlang Khongjee, Narayan Das, Francis Fernandes (Victorino Fernandes -- 75th), Mehtab Hossain, Lalrindika Ralte (Rocus Lamare -- 83rd), Clifford Miranda (CK Vineeth -- 85th), Sunil Chhetri (captain), Robin Singh.