GUWAHATI:Sunil Chhetri struck twice in the second half as India notched up a 2-0 win over Nepal in a dominating display in the first leg of their 2018 FIFA World Cup football qualifying round one here on Thursday.
The win at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium at Sajusarai here gave newly appointed India head coach Stephen Constantine a winning start in his second stint at the helm of affairs.
hhetri scored in the 53rd and 69th minutes though he failed to complete a hat-trict as he muffed a spot kick in the 80th minute. A 3-0 verdict would have put India in an even better position when they play the second leg in Kathmandu on March 17 for a second round berth in the qualification.
It was a memorable performance from Chhetri, who wore the captain’s armband for the last couple of years but was playing as deputy to keeper Subrata Paul in this match, as he was in the thick of things most of the time in several chances India had in the match.
The visitors did not get a clear scoring chance in the entire match, though they had a couple of half chances. Hours before the start of the match, the Indian team slumped to yet another historical low of 173rd in the latest FIFA rankings, but they dictated terms on the Nepalese side, who had also dropped to 180th.
The first goal came after a fine buildup by Lenny Rodrigues, Chhetri and his Bengaluru FC strike partner Robin Singh. The trio’s combination hoodwinked Nepal defence and the move got what it deserved - a perfect finish from Chhetri. The second was equally better as debutant Jackichand Singh unselfishly laid it for Chhetri to fire in.
After a slow start, India found their groove midway into the first session and from then onwards, Constantine’s boys just ran away with it.
India first had a shy at the rival goal in the 11th minute when an one-two between Chhetri and his Bengaluru FC strike partner Robin opened up the Nepal defence but Robin’s shot could not trouble goalkeeper Limbu Kiran.
Robin was again in the thick of action in the 34th and the 35th minutes, respectively. On the first instance, he latched onto a ball played behind the defence but his rasping left-footer went agonisingly over.