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India proves too hot for Hong Kong

India scored twice in each half to beat Hong Kong 4-0 in its concluding Group D league fixture of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifying round at the Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday.

The remarkable win helped India top the group with nine points from three wins and secure a second consecutive Asian Cup main-round berth for the first time.

Hong Kong (six points), too, made it to the final phase as one of the second-best finishers in the six groups.

The Indians, looking to seize the initiative, went on the attack right from kick off. They won a corner with barely 30 seconds on the clock. Opting for a short corner, Jeakson Singh sent a sharp cross to the Hong Kong goalmouth.

Early strike

Ashique Kurunian saw his first attempt ricochet off an opposition defender before Anwar swooped in on the rebound to fire the ball to the roof of the net.

The hosts doubled the lead in the final minute of the first half through a spectacular finish by Sunil Chhetri. The India captain, airborne while receiving a Jeakson free-kick, found the target with a left-footed grounder.

Chhetri’s 84th international goal tied him with Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas and took him to the fifth spot in the international goal-scorers’ list.

Despite a torrential downpour towards the end of the opening half, the Indians braved the conditions to keep a grip on the contest. Manvir Singh made it 3-0 in the 85th minute before setting up Pandita, who completed the tally in injury time (90+3).

The results: India 4 (Anwar 1, Chhetri 45, Manvir 85, Ishan 90+3) bt Hong Kong 0.

Afghanistan 2 (Faisal Shayesteh 16, Mustafa Zazai 35) drew with Cambodia 2 (Brak Thiva 37, Keo Sokpheng 81).

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