Pre-match Pictures from the Balewadi Stadium, Pune.

The débutante –  JCT midfielder Baldeep Singh

The men up front – Abhishek Yadav and Sunil Chhetri

The ‘All Blue’ of India started proceedings against the ‘All Red’ of Vietnam with the latter controlling the initial exchanges in the game keeping the ball to themselves. With the sound of drum beats all around the stadium, the Indian team gained some much needed tempo. Frontmen Sunil Chhetri and team captain Climax Lawrence combined well in the initial few minutes.

Gouramangi’s long balls drilled into Abhishek found Chhetri in some space but the charismatic striker didn’t provide an end product. Meanwhile, Vietnam moved forward quite often with Nguven Vu Pong’s header going just wide within 10 minutes. Sunil Chhetri missed a few more chances in front of goal as the match stayed stalemate after 25 minutes.

It was Chhetri himself who would go on to give India the lead after he was fed well by his striking partner Abhishek. The MLS man controlled the ball quite well from a floated cross and shot home past the opposition keeper. Surkumar almost joined the party with a long-range scorcher from a free-kick but the ball went just wide.

Meanwhile, Nabi’s cross from the left wing gets met by Chhetri only to go wide of the keeper. Good intent from Team India! With some more neat exchanges of passes in the midfield, the Indian Team started dominating the match. Vietnam had almost equalized before half-time only to be flagged offside, a relief for Indian football fans.

It took India just two minutes to go ‘two-up’ after the break as Sunil Chhetri neatly ‘heeled’ into the Vietnamese net from an Anthony Perreira cross. The crowd were eagerly anticipating a hattrick from their favorite striker. The Indian Backline looked rock-solid as it averted some decent moves from the foreigners. To spoil the ‘happy proceedings’, the referee awarded a controversial penalty as Surkumar ‘supposedly’ brought down Von Phong. Vu Nhu Thanh’s cool penalty finish gave Vietnam a glimmer of hope.

On the 65th minute, India brought three new men onto the ground with Pradeep, Renedy and Steven Dias replacing Clifford, Climax and Baldeep. Renedy Singh was in the scheme of things straight-away as he was called in for his customary free-kick duties. The chance was a wasted one. Both the teams tried to keep possession and looked a bit tentative to go for the ‘final ball’. The moment of the match came on the 71st minute, as Sunil Chhetri scored his hattrick from a left-foot finish, the stadium going absolutely berserk.

Subrata Pal made some important saves for India, one of them being an absolute blinder as he tipped a long ranger just over the bar in the 79th minute. Arsene Wenger, are you watching? A close range miss from Nguven Vu Puong clearly summed by Vietnam’s day – off-color. The last few minutes of the match saw the foreigners enjoying a lot of possession as the home-side opted for occasional counter-attacks. A few more wasted chances from Abhishek Yadav was the only disappointment as India romped home 3-1 in a stupendous display of football.

TheHardTackle Player of the Match

Sunil Chhetri – With a hattrick to his name, the Indian Ace did no harm to his reputataion. Though he could have scored some more, Chhetri kept a cool head in all of his three finishes. The MLS star combined decently with Abhishek Yadav though the latter was quite wasteful in front of goal.


Match Statistics

India Starting Line-Up: Subrata paul, Surkumar Singh, Gouramangi, Anwar Ali, Syed Nabi, Anthony Pereira, Climax Lawrence, Baldeep Singh, Clifford Miranda, Abhishek Yadav, Sunil Chhetri

Subs: NP Pradeep, Renedy Singh, Steven Dias

Goal-Scoreres: Sunil Chhetri (25′, 48′, 72′)

Vietnam Starting Line-Up: Son Duong, Van Truong, Thanh Vhu, Tu Le, Thanh Hyunh, Phuong Nguyen, Luong Pham, Tai Phan, Sy Manh, Hai Nguyen

Subs: Van Phong, Huy Hoang, Nguyen Thanh, Trong Hoang, Thang Nguyen

Goal-Scorers: Thanh Vhu (62′ Pen)