A draw feel likes a defeat, but inspirational Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri is determined to maintain their unbeaten run intact, a splendid home run that stretches to almost four years.
In a high-octane and ill-tempered SAFF Championship contest against Kuwait, India took the lead in the first-half injury time following Chhetri’s 92nd international goal.
However, an unlucky own goal from Anwar Ali in second-half injury time put a heartbreaking end to India’s hopes of topping the group.
“To a large extent, we could do exactly what we had trained for. They are not an easy side. This team can play, and we could see that. But we matched their energy, and for most of the time, I think we did well, “said Chhetri.
“But the feeling that comes to our mind is that of a loss because we conceded at the last moment,” he added.
“Clean sheet was one of our targets, which went out of the window. All of us in the dressing room are a little bit disheartened about that.
Now, it’s the unbeaten run that we want to keep as long as possible.” India are unbeaten in all nine matches played in 2023. At home, the run stretches to almost four years, with the last defeat coming in Guwahati against Oman in September 2019 in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
Chhetri further backed Anwar who conceded the own goal in the dying minutes that cancelled India’s 1-0 lead.
“It’s not Anwar, it’s the country that conceded,” captain Sunil Chhetri was quick to clarify.
“It’s an own goal. It can happen to anyone. We are professional enough not to talk about it. I hope the kid shrugs it off. We all have his back,” he said.
“Technical mistakes are something that we do not take too seriously. We just work on our effort. Sometimes I miss silly goals that I shouldn’t have. If somebody makes a silly challenge, then we get a penalty against us. It all happens in football. It’s now in the past,” Chhetri stated.
Amidst all the craziness, there was a silver lining of sorts as Chhetri hit a new milestone with his 92nd international goal — 23 of those have now come in the SAFF Championship, making him the joint top-scorer in the history of the competition alongside Maldives’ Ali Ashfaq.
For Chhetri, however, not goals but trophies matter the most.
“I don’t think about these things. I’m not trying to be arrogant, but I don’t take goals too seriously. Once when I’m done in a few years, we can talk about it with a nice burger and a beer,” he laughed.
“For now, I really appreciate the love that I get across the whole country, especially here as it is my home ground. I try my best to give whatever I have on the pitch,” the skipper signed off.