WATCH | Sunil Chhetri's sweet gesture after scoring a goal wins the internet
After scoring his 86th goal in international football and bringing the Indian side to the Intercontinental Cup 2023 final with a 1-0 win over Vanuatu at the Kalinga Stadium, talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri delighted supporters with his sweet gesture to his pregnant wife.
With 23 shots to Vanuatu's three, India had a 61 percent possession advantage throughout the game. Only two attempts on target were recorded by the hosts, who struggled to penetrate the final third. The talismanic Chhetri, though, stepped up to the plate at the crucial moment, heading in a cross from Subhasish Bose for his 86th goal in 86 international matches.
Perhaps of all the goals he has scored, this one would have special meaning for India's number 11, who used his celebration to make a significant statement to the crowd. After giving India the lead, Chhetri, a picture of serenity, calmly gathered the ball and then tucked it beneath his shirt as a sweet gesture to his wife Sonam.
"This is the way she wanted to announce it. So, this is for her and for our baby. I generally thought there would be different ways to announce it and to share the happiness with everyone and share their blessings, but the clich holds it way. I had to do it," said Chhetri after the match.
"I just hope that we get everyone's blessings. That was the whole point," he added.
The Blue Tigers defeated Vanuatu to earn a spot in the Intercontinental Cup final after defeating Mongolia earlier in the tournament by a score of 2-0. Before the championship game on June 18, they still have a game against Lebanon on June 15.
After the game, India's head coach Igor Stimac emphasised the need of player rotation to keep "fresh legs" for the crucial matches that lie ahead.
"I have had my best 11 a long time ago, but I cannot play those 11 in every game. I need to make sure that we have enough legs for the final game. We need to make sure that we give game time to everyone and keep all the players fresh for the important matches," said Stimac after the game.
Stimac was left wanting more after India's squandered opportunities against Vanuatu, particularly in the centre of the park.
"We have changed some players because we were not good in the first 45 minutes in midfield. We were sloppy, we were slow, and we were looking to find more wide passes than progressive ones," said Stimac, who then made a number of adjustments in the second half.
"These are things we need to address and change," he continued.
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