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Chhetri overtakes Messi to become 2nd highest active international goal scorer

Sunil Chhetri scored in the 27th and 46th minute of the match against Thailand to net his 66th and 67th international goals.

India TV Sports Desk India TV Sports Desk
New Delhi Published on: January 06, 2019 22:30 IST
Sunil Chhetri

Sunil Chhetri now has 67 international goals to his name

Sunil Chhetri's cat and mouse game with Lionel Messi continued as he overtook the Argentine superstar in the race of leading active goalscorers in football as India beat Thailand 4-1 in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in Abu Dhabi.

Playing his 105th game for India and second Asian Cup, Chhetri scored in the 27th and 46th minute of the match to net his 66th and 67th international goals respectively to go past Messi.

Messi, who is currently on a break from international football, now has 65 goals from 128 matches for Argenina. Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo is the highest scorer with 85 from 154 matches.

Overall, the 34-year-old is currently 20th in the list of most of goals scored in internationals.

Chhetri also became the highest scorer for India in the Asian Cup as he surpassed Inder Singh, who struck twice in the 1964 edition when the country had finished runners up.

Led by Chhetri, this was India's first victory against Thailand since the Merdeka Cup of 1986. 

The win put India at the top of the points table in Group A. They are followed by Bahrain and hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE), who had played out a 1-1 stalemate in the tournament opener on Saturday.

The astonishing scoreline, which perhaps surprised even the Indian players themselves, came on the back of a brace by star striker Sunil Chhetri, a maiden international goal by the young Anirudh Thapa (68th) and an exccellent finish by Jeje Lalpekhlua (80th).

India took the lead against the run of play when they were awarded a penalty after the ball hit Thai defender Theerathon Bunmathan's arm inside the box.

Chhetri stepped forward to calmly push the ball in even as Thailand goalkeeper Chatchai Budprom dived the other way.

Thailand continued to press forward and Bunmathan made amends for conceding the penalty when he whipped in an accurate free-kick into the Indian penalty area which was headed in by Dangda.

The equaliser was followed by a prolonged spell of domination by Thailand with the Indians forced to come up with some gritty defending to keep their opponents at bay.

The Indians were a transformed bunch after the break and retook the lead almost immediately after the re-start off a fast counter-attack. 

Udanta Singh caught the Thai defence on the wrong foot with his scorching pace and played a square ball into the box and Ashique Kuruniyan produced a superb one-touch pass for Chhetri who met the ball with an excellent finish.

Udanta was at the heart of India's third goal as well. Fed by a Chhetri pass from the midfield, the fleet-footed Manipuri beat two Thai defenders before finding Thapa with a back pass.

Thapa almost let the ball slip by but re-positioned himself swiftly to chip the ball into the net.

That seemed to kill of the Thais mentally and Jeje underlined India's domination by scoring the fourth goal only a couple of minutes after comning on as a replacement for Kuruniyan.

(With inputs from IANS)

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