Pedro Manzi once again emerged the hero as he scored two and set one up to propel Chennai City FC to a 4-2 win over Shillong Lajong in the I-League fixture at Shillong’s JLN Stadium on Monday.
The brace takes the Spaniard's tally to an impressive 18 goals for the season. His compatriots Sandro and Nestor Gordillo scored the other two, while Shillong’s goals came from Kitboklang Pale and Samuel Lyngdoh.
The win consolidates Chennai City's position on top of the I-League table, taking its tally to 37 points from 17 games, five points clear of East Bengal in the second spot. Shillong Lajong remains at the bottom of the table with 10 points from the same number of games.
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Akbar Nawaz gave new recruit and Italian keeper Mauro Boerchio his first start, while Allison Kharsyntiew started with an unchanged XI.
The game began with Chennai City FC pressing hard and high from the get go and the Spanish duo of Pedro Manzi and Sandro Rodriguez, along with Ajith Kumar, combined well to threaten the young Lajong defence.
It soon yielded results when a spectacular corner-kick from Sandro curled in and beat goalkeeper Phurcha Lachempa to put the visitor ahead with seven minutes played.
What came as a double blow to the home team was losing keeper Lachempa to injury. Shillong started to attack a little late in the half and made some threatening moves to keep Boerchio busy. Phrangki Buam, Mahesh Naorem, and Kitboklang Pale combined well to create a few opportunities but could not convert any.
Lajong’s efforts finally paid dividends when Pale came up with a clinical finish, after a brilliant through ball from Buam in the 23rd minute. The first half came to an end with the scoreline reading 1-1.
Lajong began the second half brightly and Buam and Lyngdoh had chances to score but failed to find the back of the net. However, as has been the case throughout the length of the league, Chennai’s Spanish armada led by the redoubtable Manzi changed the complexion of the game in the last 12 minutes.
Manzi headed in Sandro's free-kick from the left flank in the 78th minute to put his side once again and then delivered a wonderful cross for Nestor, who made it 3-1.
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The home side pegged one back when Lyngdoh converted a penalty in the 85th minute after Kaplan was judged to have brought down Mahesh inside the box.
Manzi, however, put the tie to bed with a 90th-minute strike to storm to the top of the goal-scoring charts and keep his side well in the hunt for its maiden I-League title.