Chhetri scores as India beat Vanuatu 1-0 to book final berth in 2023 Intercontinental Cup

India’s senior men’s team secured a spot in the 2023 Intercontinental Cup final after narrowly defeating Vanuatu 1-0 at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. This triumph marked their seventh consecutive win on home soil, mainly due to their solid defensive performances. They have managed to keep a clean sheet in six out of their last seven games.

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Throughout the 2023 Intercontinental Cup match, India dominated Vanuatu, but struggled to convert their numerous opportunities into goals. However, it was Sunil Chhetri’s remarkable 86th international goal for India that ultimately decided the game.

Coach Igor Stimac made nine changes to the lineup that defeated Mongolia 2-0 in their 2023 Intercontinental Cup match. Only captain Sunil Chhetri and Sandesh Jhingan, who celebrated his 50th appearance for the national team, retained their spots in the starting eleven. Nandhakumar Sekar also made his debut for the senior international team.

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The first half witnessed India’s attempts falling short, with Vanuatu maintaining a solid defensive stance. Chhetri missed a couple of header opportunities, failing to convert a promising cross from Kotal and struggling to connect with Mahesh’s delivery just before halftime.

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Mahesh, who earned his first start for the national team under Stimac, played a crucial role in creating opportunities for India. He provided an excellent through-ball to his East Bengal teammate Nandhakumar, who unfortunately missed his shot. Liston, who previously missed a decent chance from a pass by Chhetri, finally registered India’s first shot

on target. However, Vanuatu goalkeeper Massing Kalotang initially spilled the powerful strike but managed to gather it on the second attempt, denying Chhetri a scoring opportunity.

In the second half, Mahesh shifted to the left wing and continued to deliver dangerous crosses into the box. However, Chhetri once again headed wide from just outside the six-yard box. Stimac made changes to the midfield after the hour mark, introducing Sahal Abdul Samad, Anirudh Thapa, and Jeakson Thounaojam. This increased India’s attacking urgency.

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As time went on, Vanuatu were defensive, hoping to secure a draw. However, Chhetri broke the deadlock by scoring his 86th international goal for India. Left-back Subhasish Bose provided an excellent cross that Chhetri controlled with his chest before volleying it into the net.

In another 2023 Intercontinental Cup match of the day, Mongolia faced Lebanon with hopes of continuing their winning streak. However, their aspirations were dashed as they were held to a goalless draw due to Lebanon’s resilient defence. The result meant that India, with six points at the top of the table, secured their place in the final. Their next match is against second-placed Lebanon on Thursday, June 15.

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