Chennai City FC's Spanish recruits stamped their authority over the young Indian Arrows side as the hosts won 4-1 to kick off the new season of the I-League here on Friday.
New signing and forward Javier Manzi was outstanding, his hat-trick leading the turnaround for Chennai City at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
New coach Mohammad Akbar Nawaz, who wants his team to play possession-based football by building the attack from the back, was punished for this ploy as early as the second minute.
Centre-back Tarif Akhand's pass was intercepted by Sanjeev Stalin before Rahul KP latched on to the loose ball and beat debutant Ajithkumar Kamaraj on the right.
The forward's cross into the box was palmed into the centre of the box by goalkeeper Kabir T. but was slotted home with ease by Arrows skipper Amarjit Singh.
The Arrows were content to sit deep and catch Chennai City at the back with high-intensity pressing. However, the latter only had to deal with the threat of Rahul, who posed problems with his pace and trickery.
After the opening goal, Chennai City started to settle down in its passing game. Lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the quality of the Spanish trio — Manzi, Nestor Gordillo and Sandro Rodriguez — stood out from the rest. The Arrows midfield of Amarjit, Stalin and Boris Singh struggled to keep up with Chennai City's quick passing between the midfield lines.
Gordillo was the chief creator from the left flank with his defence-splitting passes for Manzi to feed on. The equaliser came from their link-up play when Gordillo turned away from his marker on the left before sliding in a pass between the central defenders, Anwar Ali and Narender.
Manzi ran on to the ball and rounded the onrushing goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Singh before applying the finish with his left foot.
From there on, it was one-way traffic with Chennai City dominating proceedings and the tempo of the contest. Manzi could have given the host the lead in the added time of the opening half but his chip from a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper only found the crossbar.
After the restart, Rahul, once again, found himself in space on the left flank and sent in an inviting cross, but Jeakson fluffed his shot and Edwin Vanspaul cleared the ball out of danger. The miss proved costly for the Arrows as Manzi didn't miss with his next chance of the night.
Spanish centre-back Roberto Suarez cut open the Arrows midfield with his pass to find Rodriguez who, in turn, played in Manzi behind the defence. The latter fended off Narender with his strength before letting fly a left-footed shot into the far corner to put Chennai City ahead in the 49th minute.
Manzi crowned his maiden competitive appearance on Indian soil with a hat-trick 15 minutes later when Arrows right-back Asish Rai used his hand to push the ball away from Gordillo inside the box. Manzi coolly put the spot- kick into the middle before taking in the warm cheers from the Chennai City fans.
Dindigul's Alexander Romario capped a superb attacking performance on the right with a goal. Prabhusukhan's sprawling save could only be palmed just outside the six-yard area and Romario reacted quickly to tap the ball into the net ahead of the defender.
Chennai City comfortably saw off the last 15 minutes, but was unsuccessful in its attempt to score the fifth goal of the night.
Though tougher tests await Chennai City than the one it faced against an under-20 development side (Arrows) , it will certainly savour the opening night and the Spanish flavour.
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