SAFF Championship: Hat-trick hero Chhetri helps India beat Pakistan in opener

A Sunil Chhetri hat-trick helped India to an easy 4-0 victory over Pakistan in its SAFF Championship opener at a rain-soaked Sree Kanteerava Stadium.

Published : Jun 21, 2023 21:58 IST , BENGALURU - 2 MINS READ

India’s Sunil Chhetri in action.
India’s Sunil Chhetri in action. | Photo Credit: AFP

India’s Sunil Chhetri in action. | Photo Credit: AFP


A Sunil Chhetri hat-trick helped India to an easy 4-0 victory over Pakistan in its SAFF Championship opener at a rain-soaked Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Wednesday.

It was an underwhelming hat-trick – two penalties and a gift from the Pakistan goalie – but the skipper wouldn’t have minded, for the strikes took him up to 90 international goals, fourth in the all-time men’s list.


In the first half, Pakistan looked every bit the team that had arrived on the day of the match and without sufficient practise. Matters had in fact gotten worse for the visitors as 14 players had to be split up from the main group because of logistic reasons and that bunch ended up missing the flight from Mumbai, reaching Bengaluru barely hours before the kick-off.

Their play was as disjointed. Goalkeeper Saqib Hanif was the first to display the signs, planting a kick straight at Chhetri, who slotted the ball into an empty net as early as the 10th minute.

Six minutes later, Chhetri doubled the lead from the penalty spot. Easah Suliman, the 25-year-old centre-back and former England U-20 international, conceded the foul when the ball struck his outstretched arm while defending a shot from Anirudh Thapa.

For the rest of the half, India ran rings around their South Asian neighbours. The likes of Sahal Abdul Samad and Lallianzuala Chhangte dribbled past Pakistani players as if they were training cones. It was a pity that the scoreline didn’t swell.

But a touchline scuffle just before half-time involving Indian head coach Igor Stimac brought back the spark. Stimac impeded a Pakistan throw-in, and in a flash both sets of players were at each others’ throats.

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Some cool heads like Chhetri intervened to calm things down, only for a Pakistan support staff member to run across and try to headbutt an Indian. He was lucky to receive only a caution while Stimac was given a red card.

There were some anxious moments when three intruders ran on to the turf over a 45-minute period, with the second going all the way up to the centre circle and within a handshake’s distance of Chhetri.

Fans saw the funny side of it and just when it seemed like that would be the last memory they would carry, substitute Udanta Singh applied the finishing touches, scoring his team’s fourth.

The result: India 4 (Chhetri 10, 16, 74, Udanta 81) bt Pakistan 0.

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