India ran away 4-1 winners over higher ranked Puerto Rico here at the Mumbai Football Arena on saturday evening. Striker Sunil Chhetri contributed with a goal and an assist, after India came back from a goal down. Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was named captain for the evening, with Sandesh Jhingan and Arnab Mondal named as the central defensive pairing.
The Puerto Ricans, who arrived in the city last evening after missing their flight, started on a stronger note after India were losing possession quiet easily. Captain Alexis Rivera floated a ball into a box, with left back Elliott making a sharp turn, only to be brought down by winger Jackichand Singh in the 7th minute. The resulting penalty was calmly converted by forward Emanuel Sanchez.
India had its first shot on target in the 14th minute by the midfielder Pronoy Halder. Three minutes later, India got their equalizer when a Sunil Chhetri freekick hit the post, with the rebound calmly slotted home by left-back Narayan Das. Indiaa��s midfielders, particularly Lyngdoh were impressive throughout the game, initiating attacks via long balls. India doubled its lead in the 24th minute after defender Yepes bought down Chettri just outside the box. Chettria��s low freekick towards the far post was helped by keeper Santana, who positioned himself behind the wall.
Sandhu made his first save in the 25th minute when winger Juana��s close range effort was blocked by an outstretched leg. Two minutes, Jackichand Singha��s skied a shot after being teed up by the hardworking Jeje. The Mizoram striker got his reward in the 34th minute after an inch perfect cross from Kotwal found Chhetri at the far post, with Jeje heading the ball home to give India a two goal cushion. At the stroke of halftime, Jeje could have doubled his tally, only for the keeper to stick a leg out.
The second half began on an even note, with the pacy striker Mike Ramos hitting the post in the 54th minute. India got their fourth goal two minutes later, when Jeje outmuscled a defender, with the chipped ball being headed by Lyngdoh. Lyngdoha��s header was going just wide of the post, only for Jackichand to sweep the ball home and seal the victory for India. The defenders being weary, Sanchez gave a few scares with a shot hitting the post, but the victory serves well in preparation for Indiaa��s AFC Cup qualifiers.
Maximum city got its first taste of international football after 61 years, this victory should be a catalyst for the U-17 FIFA World Cup to be held in the country next year.