New Delhi: India went to top of the table and enhanced their chances of reaching the finals of the Nehru Cup football tournament by thrashing South Asian rivals Maldives 3-0 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Saturday.
The Maldives have three points from two games while Cameroon and Syria have a point each. Nepal are yet to open their account.
India dominated the match from beginning to end, doing justice to coach Wim Koevermans idea of "total football". India have six points from two games and have one foot in the final.
Lisbon 'B' striker Sunil Chhetri scored a brace in the 45th and 70th minute with the Indian attackers and midfield running riot.
Syed Rahim Nabi was the other goal scorer with a close range header from a Clifford Miranda corner in the 54th minute.
Nabi, playing at left-back, put in a sterling performance, making incisive runs into the opposition box. His crosses were precise and more often than not the defender found his man.
India did most of the attacking down the left with Miranda and Nabi linking up beautifully.
The Red Snappers didn't have particularly good game with Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul having to do very little. The Prayag United man though was called into action in the 34th minute after Ashfaq Ali found himself completely free in the box.
The link-up play, which saw the Maldives defeat Nepal 2-1 in their opening match, was not there to be seen.
The Maldives' star striker Ali didn't get any good service from his midfield and was kept on tabs by the centre-back pairing of Raju Gaikwad and Goumangi Singh.
The Indian defence put in a much improved performance not allowing the Maldives players to settle on the ball.
This was India's second consecutive win over the Maldives with the previous one coming at the same venue in the semi-finals of the SAFF Cup. Chhetri and Nabi were the chief architect in that match as well.
India did all the attacking early on but didn't have any end product. They looked good with the ball finding the front men regularly.
The Indian custodian made a smart save from Ali's scuffed shot, denying the Maldives the lead.
India's first chance came in the seventh minute from a Clifford Miranda corner. The Maldives goalkeeper made a complete hash of it but luckily for him, the ball didn't fall to any Indian feet.
The hosts looked very dangerous throughout the entire first half but were unable to find the final ball. The breakthrough finally came when Nabi's cross struck the outreached hand of defender Mohamed Sifan. The referee immediately pointed to the spot.
Chhetri coolly slotted in the penalty, sending Maldives goalkeeper Mohamed Imran the wrong way.
Indian coach Koevermans made an attacking substitution at the start of the second half, bringing on burly striker Robin Singh. With Robin's entry Indian wingers finally found a big target man to aim at.
Chhetri had a golden opportunity to double India's lead but his shot found a Maldivian defender in the way with Nabi again being the provider.
Chhetri though did finally score. Francisco Fernandes' inch perfect cross was met by the striker's forehead.
He could have easily had a hat-trick to his name a minute later but hit the woodwork after rounding off a hapless Maldives goalkeeper.
The Maldives lacked ideas in midfield and looked totally out of sorts. Ali did his all to inspire his teammates but always found a blue wall in front of him.
India next play against Nepal Tuesday.