NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 4- Skipper Sunil Chhetri notched a brace on his 100th cap as India thumped Kenya’s Harambee Stars 3-0 in their second match at the four-nation InterContinental Heroes Cup at a water-logged Mumbai Arena on Monday night.
After a barren first half, Chhetri opened the scoring in the 68th minute from the penalty spot before Jeje Lalpekhlua scored the second two minutes later. The skipper then put the icing on the cake in the second minute of added time as India picked their second win of the tournament.
Stars will now need to win their final round-robin match against Chinese Taipei on Friday to book a slot in Sunday’s final after starting off their campaign with a 2-1 win over New Zealand on Saturday.
India on the other hand started off with a 5-0 thrashing of Chinese Taipei.
It was a difficult outing for Sebastien Migne’s charges who were forced to play long balls because of the soggy nature of the pitch and they had few chances to score.
The game opened up in the second half and Kenya almost had the opener in the 49th minute when Ovella Ochieng burst through the centre of the Indian defence but could only shoot inches wide of the goal.
But the Indians got the much needed opener in the 68th minute after they were awarded a penalty after Chhetri was hacked inside the box by Michael Kibwage. The skipper stepped up to score.
Two minutes later, the Indians were 2-0 up when Lalpekhlua lit up the full to capacity arena with a wonderful shot from range that found keeper Matasi flat footed.
Kenya tried to push in for an equalizer attempting to use Piston Mutamba’s height in attack but they couldn’t break the backline. Substitute Mark Makwatta came close with a shot from range but the Indian keeper saved.
Chhetri then drove the final nail into Kenya’s coffin with a beauty of a goal, chipping the ball over Matasi after India launched a counter attack.
Migne had made only one change from the team that won on Saturday, bringing in Dennis Odhiambo for Makwatta. The tactician was forced into a change pre-match after left back Eric Ouma suffered an injury during warm up and was replaced by Bolton Omwenga.
Meanwhile, the stadium was full to capacity after captain Sunil Chhetri’s emotional plea for fans to support the team after barely 2,500 people turned up to watch them play against Chinese Taipei.
Chhetri’s heartfelt appeal — backed by India’s cricket heroes Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar — went viral on social media, prompting fans to shell out for tickets.
Every seat in the 15,000-capacity Mumbai Football Arena was quickly sold with one fan buying more than 1,000 tickets for the Intercontinental Cup game.
Chhetri’s plea came after India thrashed Taiwan 5-0 in front of just 2,569 people in the Mumbai stadium on Friday.
The disheartened Chhetri, who scored a hat-trick in the match, said in a Twitter video: “To everyone who has lost hope in Indian football I request you to come and watch us in the stadiums.