Sunil Chhetri brace hands India perfect start against Cambodia
The win also takes the Blue Tigers on top of Group D in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.
The 37-year-old Sunil Chhetri claimed a goal in each half to give India all three points against Cambodia, ensuring the group hosts keep pace with Hong Kong following the earlier win by Jorn Andersen’s outfit over Afghanistan.
Only the group winners are sure to advance to the Finals, where they will be joined at the 24-team showpiece by the five runners-up with the best records across the six qualifying groups of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers.
India, who are looking to qualify for back-to-back AFC Asian Cup tournaments for the first time in their history, went in front when Chhetri was on hand to open the scoring after referee Baraa Kamal Abu Asheh pointed to the spot in the 12th minute.
The Palestinian official was left in no doubt regarding the spot-kick when he saw Liston Colaco scythed down by Boris Kok with the midfielder having already left Ken Chansopheak and Choun Chanchav in his wake.
Chhetri stepped up and slammed his right foot strike beyond Hul Kimhuy, who guessed the right way but was unable to react quickly enough to keep out the well-struck penalty.
Stimac’s side continued to dominate possession but were unable to make that superiority pay in the final third as the Cambodians largely kept them at bay. Chhetri’s next sight of goal came midway through the half, but his header was well wide of the target.
Roshan Singh Naorem would send his effort over the bar while Brandon Fernandes’ low drive was straight at the goalkeeper. Kimhuy was able to deny Akash Mishra late in the half when he palmed the midfielder’s attempt clear of the target.
Chhetri continued to carry the greatest threat for the home side, heading wide five minutes after the restart before, in the 59th minute, he doubled India’s lead when he powered Fernandes’ in-swinging cross past a helpless Kimhuy.
Fernandes took aim from distance soon after as India sought a third but was marginally off target while substitute Muhammed Ashique Kuruniyan narrowly missed the target with less than three minutes of the game left to play.
India face Afghanistan next on Saturday with Cambodia needing to bounce back against Hong Kong.
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