Punjab FC rode on a stunning hat-trick from Dipanda Dicka to earn a 3-2 comeback victory over Neroca FC in their I-League clash at the Guru Nanak Stadium in Ludhiana, on Wednesday.
The win sees Punjab remain in the second spot with 17 points from 10 games, three points shy of league leader Mohun Bagan, which has a game in hand. Neroca, on the other hand, will remain in the eighth place with eight points from nine matches.
Cameroonian striker Dipanda Dicka's exploits saw him become the top-scorer of the I-League with eight goals and also bag the first hat-trick of the season.
Neroca drew first blood in the fourth minute when Varun Thokchom’s audacious back-flick from the near post off a corner outfoxed the Punjab defence and keeper Kiran Limbu. The visiting side struck again in the 20th minute when new arrival Philip Tetteh found the back of the net.
It was an opportunistic goal as the Ghanaian latched on to a poor back-pass by Liberian defender Teah Dennis and buried it past the 'keeper.
The double-strikes saw Punjab FC coach Yan Law bring on Brazilian front-man Teixeira Junior in place of Makan Chote.
Punjab pegged one back on the 27th minute off a free-kick. Dicka was brought down in a dangerous position outside the box and he curled a beauty past the wall to keep his side in the reckoning.
Dicka netted his second goal of the afternoon when he scored off yet another set piece. Sanju Pradhan floated a cross into the box and Dicka rose above his marker and the 'keeper to head it in and bring his side back on level terms.
The second half wasn't as frantic as the opening 45 and the chances were rare. Punjab FC's Samuel Shadap struck a fine shot from distance but was denied by the post, while Neroca's Tetteh was flagged offside on a run in the 77th minute and his shot from well inside the box could not beat the 'keeper.
The match deciding moment came in the 89th minute when Limbu’s long pass up the field sailed toward the Neroca half. Centre-back Ousmane Diawara appeared to have it covered, however, he misread the bounce and Dicka pounced on the ball before the 'keeper could and slotted the ball home to extend Punjab FC's unbeaten streak to nine games.
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