Mumbai: India romped to a 5-0 win in their opening match of the Intercontinental Cup as they waltzed past a second-string Chinese Taipei side at the Mumbai Football Arena on Friday.
Sunil Chhetri struck his third hat-trick in Indian colours as Udanta Singh and Pronay Halder also got on the score-sheet for the hosts against the 121st-ranked visitors.
Constantine opted for a 4-2-3-1 to start, with Subhasish Bose handed a debut at left-back and Anirudh Thapa starting for the first time in India’s colours.
It didn’t take long for the home team to register as Chhetri played a one-two with Jeje Lalpekhlua before brushing off the Taipei defence to net the opener. Chhetri had gone close previously as Thapa’s cut-back saw him charging down on goal, only to sweep it wide.
Chhetri then bagged his second, as he played another one-two with Jeje and shot from the right, but opposition keeper Wen-Chieh Pan made an error, letting it in at his near post. Chinese Taipei struggled to get the ball out of their half, as the midfield’s ball retention let the team down.
Going into half-time 2-0, India started the second half in the same vein as Udanta Singh cut in from the right flank after neat footwork, and stroked it home, bagging his first goal for the national team. India made their first changes as Ashique Kuruniyan became the 38th player to debut under Stephen Constantine in his second stint, coming on for Halicharan Narzary.
Even though Chhetri’s shot off a gilt-edged chance was cleared off the line, the skipper made no mistake off a corner as Thapa, who had a great game, played a one-two with the Bengaluru forward off a short corner, playing his captain in. Chhetri then completed his hat-trick in his 99th match as he sent a shot straight through the middle. It was his first hat-trick for India in eight years.
Pronay Halder, coming back to the national fold after a long time, wrapped up India’s victory after a thumping drive from outside the box as the home team polished off their opponents.
India face Kenya next on the 4th of June, while Chinese Taipei take on New Zealand in their next match.