DUSHANBE, August 14, 2008, Asia-Plus – A hat-trick from Sunil Chhetri inspired India to Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup glory after the hosts overcame defending champions Tajikistan 4-1 in the final at Ambedkar Stadium on August 13.

Three goals in the opening 22 minutes swept Tajikistan away with Chhetri finding the back of the net either side of a Baichung Bhutia strike before the former completed his treble with 16 minutes remaining.

Fathullo Fatkhuloev pulled a goal back just before the break for Pulod Qodirov''s men but it proved merely a consolation effort.

The result also sees Bob Houghton''s side book their place in the 2011 Asian Cup, their first appearance in the continent''s showpiece tournament since 1984.

Bhutia volleyed home from the edge of the area after 18 minutes, putting away a precise cross from Samir Naik, before Chhetri struck again in the 22nd minute as the striker beat Tuychiev with a shot from 30 yards out that eluded the goalkeeper''s despairing dive and flew in just inside right upright.

Tajikistan desperately searched for a way back into the game.  Skipper Anvar Norqulov had seen a long-range effort come back of the bar before an effort from Fathulloyev trickled just wide.  Fathulloyev had demonstrated plenty of speed and skill with his forays down the right and he eventually got Tajikistan on the board after 43 minutes with a volley from 20 yards.

Isomiddin Qurbonov headed a cross from Davronjon Ergashev narrowly wide in the second half while at the other end Wadoo Mehrajuddin struck the upright with a right-foot strike from 30 yards out.

The Indians fiercely defended the lead with goalkeeper Subrata Pal turning in a fine performance. Chhetri then made certain of victory with his third goal and India''s fourth, firing home after Tuychiev allowed the ball to squirm from his grasp.