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India beat Maldives 3-0 in Nehru Cup

NEW DELHI: Skipper Sunil Chhetri led by example scoring twice while Syed Rahim Nabi found the target once, as India posted a convincing 3-0 win over Maldives for their second victory in the Nehru Cup football tournament on Saturday.

Sunil Chhetri

Chhetri struck at the stroke of half time (45+2) before striking again on the 70th with a diving header, while Nabi found the target in between when he scored in the 53rd minute at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, which recorded a decent turnout.Chhetri found the net after Mohamed Sifan was called for handling the ball that was delivered by Nabi from the left. The prolific striker converted from the spot without any difficulty, for his second goal in the ongoing edition of the tournament.Nabi doubled the lead when he headed in a Clifford Miranda corner to put the hosts in the driver’s seat and, on course for a third title on the trot after triumphs in 2007 and 2009 at the Ambedkar stadium, and second here after the SAFF Cup win in December.India’s show of dominance did not end there as Chhetri headed in a Frances Fernandes cross to make it 3-0.Despite being coached by a Dutchman, to say Indian football and total football in same breath is a bit more than odd.The Indians, though, gave enough indications that the team was headed in the right direction.Adaptability has been the buzzword in recent times, and the likes of Syed Rahim Nabi, Sanju Pradhan and Chhetri were at the forefront when it came to showing the world that this Indian team is fast employing the new style of play designed by Koevermans.__PAGEBREAK__If Nabi, as he always has been, industrious on the left, Pradhan, playing in only his second international match, gave glimpses of what he is capable of.Leading from the front, Chhetri always looked on the prowl, not allowing the Maldives back four to relax for a moment. The 29-year-old would, more often than not, find himself positioned near the ball, and in the zone.It was due to Chhetri, who tormented the Maldives defence throughout the match, and his colleagues’ relentless efforts on field that India made it look so easy in the end.If the start was any indication, one would have thought that the match would be a close one, but a resurgent India, buoyed by the one-goal cushion, killed the match in the second half.If one talks about possession in the period preceding the lemon break, India were ahead by a slight margin, 53-47 to be precise, but that is not the perfect indicator of Maldives’ game.They did create a few chances, with skipper Ashfaq Ali being the biggest threat. Had it not been for a timely interception by stopper Raju Gaekwad, the veteran striker would have drawn the first blood as early as in the 13th minute of the match.Gaikwad was, however, culpable of committing a blunder a few minutes later but goalkeeper Subrata Paul came to his rescue, thwarting Ali’s another attempt.Koevermans preferred to retain the XI that defeated Syria in the tournament opener, and it worked very well for his team.Nabi, Gouramangi Singh, Gaikwad and Nirmal Chhetri manned the defence, while Lenny Rodrigues, Pradhan, Miranda and Mehtab Hossain patrolled the midfield with Chhetri playing upfront and Frances behind him in the 4-4-1-1 formation.After a good outing, Pradhan was surprisingly taken off by Koevermans who decided to bring in Robin Singh. Miranda was replaced by Anthony Pereira in the 77th minute while Denzil ranco was brought on for Nirmal on the 90th minute.This was India’s 11th win in 17 encounters against Maldives. The last time the two teams met, in the 2011 SAAF Cup, India won 3-1.PTI

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