Sunil Chhetri’s sense of space and nose for goals sunk NorthEast United FC. The costliest Indian buy for Mumbai City FC at Rs 1.20 crore, Chhetri scored a hat-trick and almost got the fourth one in the home side’s 5-1 victory over NorthEast United FC. Sony Norde tapped in the fourth goal for the men in blue, while captain Frantz Bertin nodded in the number five on Wednesday at D. Y. Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai. The winners moved to second place in the league table with 10 points from six games and with a superior goal difference than FC Goa.
Nicolas Anelka, who was not needed on the turf, would have loved to be in Chhetri’s boots for MCFC’s second goal. Norde gained space and the ball on the left, the Haitian, dangerous around the goalmouth, waited for teammates to move into position. Subhas Singh reached the right post and headed the floater towards goal as Chhetri arrived in time for a stylish leap and tap in first-time. Two penalty conversions completed a happy day at work for the costliest Indian signing.
The visitors started with Valez and Simao in the playing squad, the latter wearing the captain’s armband. Farias had pushed the Italian striker and his teammates from Portugal as second-half substitutes, and both delivered with assist and goals. The home team wore a black armband to express solidarity with teammate Selim Benachour, who flew home after losing his father.
The sombre mood in MCFC dugout pre-match was not reflected on the pitch. Anelka brought back striker Subas Singh at the expense of playmaker Gabriel Fernandes. Piquionne earned the home side a free-kick with a twist past two defenders, then a tumble. Norde’s effort came back off the wall, giving custodian T. P. Rehenesh in goal time to settle down.
Rehenesh faced the heat while facing a penalty kick by Chhetri, which the latter converted coolly to put MCFC ahead in the 25th minute. A NEUFC player made a faulty pass which Chhetri latched on, moved up and tapped the ball diagonally for Subash to centre. Carlos Lopez, rushing to cover the first angle, leaped but the ball struck his hand.
NEUFC needed only four minutes to draw level. MUCFC custodian Subrata Paul got into trouble, unsighted by jostling players in front of him as Haokip shaped to take a free-kick. The latter curled the ball in low into the net beyond a surprised goalkeeper. Rehesh looked on as a Norde flag kick came back off the post into play, with defender Cmovs in position but headed over.
Chhetri scored his third of the match with another penalty kick conversion. The award came MUCFC way after a overhead kick by the India striker struck Andre Bikey’s hand. Norde moved from support role to lead actor in MUCFC’s fourth goal, picking up a pass from Juan Aguilera, going on to outwit Rehenesh with a dummy kick, forcing the latter to commit and placing in.
NEUFC coach Farias responded by bringing in fresh legs, Sanju Pradhan replacing goal-scorer Haokip, but MUCFC pulled off another rehearsed move. Norde floated the ball off a corner kick for fellow Haitian Bertin to power a header into the net.
The visitors remain in seventh place after six games, beaten by a slippery Indian, equipped with an agile mind and deadly feet.
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