Masterminded superbly by ace striker Sunil Chhetri, a dominant India scripted a sensational 4-1 win over higher-ranked Puerto Rico in an international football friendly at the Andheri Sports Complex stadium.

India were down 0-1 in the seventh minute with Emmanuel Sanchez scoring off a spot-kick award, but the hosts went on to dominate the visitors, ranked 38 places above them, with some slick passing and quick attacking moves.

India, who led 3-1 at the half-way stage, scored their goals through Narayan Das (18th minute), Chhetri (26th), Jeje Lalpekhlua (34th) and Jackichand Singh (58th).

b”Chhetri’s freekicks were lethal. AIFF”

Chhetri paved the way for two goals and also struck once to emerge as the star player for the home country.

This was India’s fourth straight victory after the 1-2 loss to Turkmenistan in the World Cup qualifier in Kochi in March early this year. They had got past Laos 6-1 and 1-0 in the Asia Cup qualifiers in June and then drubbed Bhutan 3-0 last month in another international friendly.

India have not beaten higher-ranked teams often in the past and had even lost 1-2 to Afghanistan in the SAFF Cup in Kochi in January.

This victory, albeit against a none-too-strong-looking Puerto Rico side, which had arrived here only last evening and clearly looked tired after their long journey, must have pleased national coach Stephen Constantine who included several youngsters to prop up the team.

b’Jeje Lalpekhlua also got on the scoresheet. AIFF’

India, in fact, started the match — the first international in Mumbai after six decades — on the wrong foot by conceding a penalty in the seventh minute when Elliot Velez was brought down on the left of the area by Jackichand Singh.

The spot-kick was put in by Sanchez who beat Indian custodian and match skipper Gurpreet to bulge the bottom right corner of the goal.

This early reversal galvanized the hosts, ranked 152 as compared to their rivals’ 114, into an attacking mode and they started playing with gusto and got rich rewards when they scored twice with the help of free kicks with Chhetri playing a stellar role in both these strikes.

Chhetri curled one around the wall only to hit the post, but defender Narayan Das, lurking nearby, pounced on the rebound and struck home, finding the right corner of the goal.

Six minutes later another free-kick was given to the home team when Chhetri was brought down by Emmanuel D’Andrea.

India’s leading international goal-getter was once again able to curl the ball around the wall, once again to find the post.

But on this occasion the ball struck the inside of the woodwork and then went in much to the delight of the crowd of around 7,000 fans rooting for the Indian team vociferously as suddenly India were 2-1 up.

Luck and some poor defending by Puerto Rico smiled on the Indians as a high cross from Pritam Kotal was headed towards Jeje by Chhetri and the 25-year-old from Mizoram made no mistake.

The 4-1 cushion was provided by the diminutive livewire Jackichand. He got hold of a misdirected header from Lyngdoh before connecting the volley home.

Feature image source: AIFF