The forward played a key role in India’s win against Puerto Rico and after the game the manager singled him out for special praise….

India manager Stephen Constantine lavished huge praise on “talisman” Sunil Chhetri after India’s stupendous 4-1 victory against Puerto Rico in the international friendly in Mumbai on Saturday.

“Sunil is the talisman of this team. He is a wonderful player. He has been scoring goals for the last ten years. I keep teasing him, saying ‘your time is almost done,’ but he’s not having that. He says he has another 4-5 years in him,” Constantine said after the game.

India’s all-time leading goalscorer certainly had a memorable outing on what was a historic occasion in Mumbai as the national team graced the metropolis for the first in all of 61 years. Chhetri was in the heart of the action as he along with midfield strongmen Pronay Halder and Eugeneson Lyngdoh inspired the hosts’ remarkably turnaround after going a goal down to an early Emanuel Sanchez penalty. The forward scored from a blistering free-kick and had a part to play in two of the other three goals as the Blue Tigers trounced their higher ranked CONCACAF opponents.

Chhetri scored 1 goal and provided 1 assist against Puerto Rico.

The Englishman also made mention of the frontman’s work ethic on and off the pitch and his leadership qualities that came to the fore. “But look, he keeps himself in great shape. He is one of the leaders of the team, the captain and as long as he’s fit, he plays,” he asserted.

Constantine elaborated on the logic behind playing the Mumbai City FC man in a slightly deeper role behind the main striker in a front two with Jeje Lalpekhlua leading the line. “For a player of his calibre, you have to find the space for him. For me, his place is behind the striker. He brings other people into the game. He has an eye for goal, he sees the pass, and he works,” he reasoned.

The former Millwall assistant also took the opportunity to thank the fans who turned out in large numbers to support the team which made for a festive atmosphere at the Mumbai Football Arena.

“Aditya (Thackeray) and his group have done an unbelievable job to get the pitch as close to perfect as you can get it. The atmosphere by the Mumbai fans was excellent. There were only six or seven thousand but it felt like some twenty thousand. I hope it’s not another 61 years before there’s another game here,” the manager smiled.