Chennai City FC restored their lead at the top of the 12th Hero I-League table, outplaying Shillong Lajong 6-1 at the Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore on Saturday evening, courtesy a Pedro Manzi hattrick, his second of the season.
In a free-flowing and entertaining encounter, it was yet again an all-Spanish scorers list for the home side with Nestor Jesus netting a brace and defender Roberto Eslava getting his second of the season, besides Hero of the Match Manzi’s three goals. Shillong’s only goal was scored by captain Samuel Lalmuanpuia from a stunner of a free-kick.
With this win, Chennai move to the top of the table with 21 points from all 10 first round games played. Neroca of Manipur are now second with 18 points from the same number of games.
Shillong remain at the bottom of the table, suffering their eighth loss from 10 games and have just four points.
The first half saw Chennai go two goals up with Nestor opening the scoring on the 12th minute from a smartly-crafted free-kick into the box by Sandro Rodriguez. Nestor’s snap-shot hit the underside of the bar and crossed the line, which was rightly judged by the linesman.
Manzi then missed a couple of golden chances to score with one hitting the post on the 32nd minute before an unchallenged Roberto Eslava doubled the lead on the 38th from a powerful header off a Sandro Rodriguez corner. This was his second goal of the 12th Hero I-League.
Manzi got his first of the game four minutes into the second half when Shillong captain Samuel Lalmuanpuia lost the ball inside his half to Edwin Vanspaul, who found Manzi with a beautiful ball. The Spaniard slid through two defenders into the box and neatly chipped it past Lachempa. It was also Edwin’s first of three assists on the day.
The Lajong captain made amends four minutes later with a cracker of a free-kick from about 30 yards out. His booming drive beat Chennai keeper Santana for pace and power to pull one back for the visitors.
Chennai then scored three in the space of 11 minutes to put the issue decisively beyond the young visitors.
Nestor Jesus first latched onto a clever ball played on by Manzi for him inside the box and the former made no mistake with a left-footed strike for his sixth goal of the campaign.
On the 78th minute, Edwin found Manzi inside the box with a lovely chip, which the Spaniard brought down with his thigh and volleyed on the turn to beat Lachempa all ends up.
Two minutes later, Edwin played a part in yet another goal, when he was brought down inside the box and Manzi converted the penalty. Though Lachempa guessed right and even got a hand to it, he could not keep it from crossing the line.
To Shillong’s credit, they never stopped attacking and Sheen, on the 76th minute, missed a one-on-one with the keeper after a wonderful build-up, hitting straight at Santana in the Chennai goal. Kitbok on the follow up also hit the side-netting.
Pedro Manzi now has seven goals in the 12th Hero I-League and is just one behind top scorer Willis Plaza of Churchill Brothers. The four Spaniards have now scored 18 of Chennai’s 22 goals so far.