Coimbatore: Spanish duo of Pedro Manzi and Sandro Rodriguez scored a brace each as Chennai City FC beat Aizawl FC 4-3 to take a step closer to the I-League crown at the Nehru stadium in Coimbatore on Friday.
Rodriguez scored in the 28th and 69th minutes while Manzi struck in the 60th and 80th minutes. For Aizawl, Albert, Issac and Mapuia found the target in the 37th, 90+1 and 90+3 minutes of the match.
The win took Chennai City to 30 points with seven more games to go and an eight-point gap from their nearest rivals at this stage.
Chennai took the lead in the 28th minute when Pravitto Raju set up Nestor with a cut back. The Spaniard displayed vision to leave it for Sandro, who fired from a distance and the ball caught goalkeeper Gurpreet's palms before going into the Aizawl net.
Ten minutes later, Alfred Jaryan muscled the ball away from Pandiyan in the center of midfield and played a quick 1-2 with Kasagga and upon getting the ball back, released Albert who had made a darting run into the box from the right.
The talented youngster, brought back by Aizawl coach Stanley Rozario after not getting much game-time, coolly slotted the ball between Santana's legs and into the Chennai net.
From then till the 60th minute of the game, Aizawl clearly looked the better team and threatened many a time to take the lead.
Ivorian Zikahi Dodoz was guilty of missing at least two gilt-edged opportunities to score. Chennai also had their fair share of misses and Romario was the main culprit, missing a sitter in the 58th minute after misdirecting a volley earlier.
Then there was simply some Manzi 'Magic' at the hour mark.
A ball cleared by the Romario from the Chennai back-line bounced in front of Manzi just inside the Aizawl half near the right touchline. The Spanish sniper took a touch forward, looked up, saw keeper Gurpreet off his line and fired from 40 yards out to lob the keeper and nestle the ball into the Aizawl net.
The goal took him to the top of the I-League goal scorers list with his 12th of the campaign.
It was a goal feast from then on with Sandro getting his second of the game in the 69th, not for the first time in this year's campaign, swinging in a brilliantly taken free-kick, to beat Gurpreet all ends up.
Nestor, who had a relatively quieter day, then got into the mix, playing in the perfectly weighted ball into the box for Manzi, who had initiated the move from the right. The striker chipped in calmly over the keeper for this 13th.
Then in injury time, Aizawl attempted an outrageous comeback with two more outstanding goals, ushering in a thrilling finish.
First, Isaac controlled a second ball off a corner, took a touch forward with his left foot to create space and curled it intelligently over Santana in the Chennai goal.
A minute later, Aizawl intercepted the ball in the midfield and Mapuia, played on inside the box, shrugged off his marker to unleash a right-footer past Santana. It was Mapuia's third of the season and all his goals have been quality stuff so far.
It was a brave effort by Aizawl but in the end, Chennai ran out deserving winners to consolidate their position at the top.
East Bengal keep pace with narrow win
A Jamie Santos Colado strike in the second half helped East Bengal beat Indian Arrows 1-0 in Kolkata to jump to the second place in the I-League on Friday.
Santos scored the all-important goal in the 48th minute at the at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan.
The Kolkata giants now have 22 points -- five shy of leaders Chennai City FC -- from 12 matches.
The Arrows remain at eighth position with 13 points after an equal number of games.
East Bengal's Spanish coach Alejandro Garcia made two changes to the starting eleven from their previous game against Chennai. Regular Lalrindika Ralte was suspended and Kamalpreet got a start while Samad Ali Mallick sat on the bench as Lalram Chullova came back in after suspension.
The Arrows coach Floyd Pinto fielded an unchanged side from their 3-0 victory against Shillong Lajong in their previous game.
It was Santos who had the first shot at goal in the 12th minute when he latched onto a second ball but his attempt was off target.
He then fed Joby Justin from the right flank but the striker's header was well collected by Prabhsukhan Gill at the Arrows goal. The closest East Bengal came to scoring in the first half was when Frenchman Kassim Aidara's scorcher from 20-25 yards out off a loose ball hit the right upright and came back.
The winning goal came just three minutes into the second half. Joby latched on to a ball on the right flank, just a minute after he had attempted another wonderful cross from the same position, but this time cut the ball back into the box instead of driving it across.
The ball seemed to have been intercepted by the Arrows defence, but they fumbled and Santos, lurking around, pounced on the opening and blasted it into the net.
The Arrows then had a couple of chances but KP Rahul's shot hit the side-netting in the 81st minute.
In the 84th, Joby again found Santos with a cross after darting inside the box but the Spaniard could not connect it.
Defender Borja Gomez was adjudged Hero of the Match and left-back Manoj Mohammad saw red in injury time as the game drew to a fiery close.
Updated Date: Jan 18, 2019 23:59:10 IST