NorthEast United rode on Bartholomew Ogbeche's hat-trick to complete a superb turnaround and defeat Chennaiyin FC 4-3 here on Thursday.
The first half saw six goals in total, three from either side before Rowllin Borges turned hero from villain to pile more misery on champion Chennaiyin. The home side now has zero points in three matches - it's worst-ever start in Indian Super League history.
Despite taking a 2-0 lead in just over 15 minutes, Chennaiyin conceded the initiative and was comprehensively outplayed in every department by its NorthEast counterparts from there on. Chennaiyin could manage only two shots to NorthEast's eight in the first 70 minutes. Defensive concerns continue to mount for Chennaiyin after conceding seven goals in two matches at home. Last season, the side had conceded all of 12 goals in 10 matches.
Having struggled to find the net in its two opening encounters, Chennaiyin was gifted an early lead by an error from NorthEast. Thoi Singh, who had just 500 minutes of football last year, capped his rare start of the season with two opportunistic strikes inside the box.
Chennaiyin went ahead in the fifth minute when Borges turned in a corner kick from Isaac Vanmalsawma from the left side. Thoi scored Chennaiyin's first open-goal of the season when he slotted in Isaac's squared pass from the left after he was released by Jerry Lalrinzuala with a lofted ball over NorthEast's defence.
After the blitzkrieg start, NorthEast's midfield trio of Rowllin, Federico Gallego and Jose Leudo settled in the match and dictated the rhythm there on. Chennaiyin's central midfield duo of Anirudh Thapa and Inigo Calderon struggled to keep pace with the tempo and movement of NorthEast's midfielders.
NorthEast's sustained pressure resulted in striker Ogbeche netting a stunning 10-minute hat-trick in the first half which pulled his side level with the home team heading into the break.
In the 29th minute, Gallego darted trough Chennaiyin's spine before taking a shot at goal. Karanjit Singh failed to collect the ball and spilled into the penalty area. Ogbeche was alert and got to the ball before Eli Sabia and put it past the goalkeeper with a toe-poked finish.
Thoi restored Chennaiyin's two-goal cushion three minutes later. Raphael Augusto drove inside NorthEast's box and beat the right-back Reagan Singh to put in a dangerous low cross into the six yard area. Thoi's back-heel somehow managed to find its way past goalkeeper Pawan Kumar, who was deputising for the suspended TP Rehenesh.
Ogbeche made Chennaiyin skipper Mailson Alves' outing one to forget by getting him behind him twice in the space of three minutes to score his second and third goals of the evening. Ogbeche ran onto a well-timed pass from Borges over Chennaiyin's center-backs, which he collected on his chest before taking his time to side-foot it past an onrushing Karanjit in the 37th minute.
Ogbeche's third strike was nearly a carbon copy of his second goal. Gallego turned provider this time when Ogbeche rounded off the goalkeeper to slot the ball home and make it 3-3.
Borges turned hero on the night in the 54th minute when he jumped ahead of Thapa to a loose clearance from Alves before side-footing a perfect finish past Karanjit to put his side ahead for the first time.
Chennaiyin coach Gregory threw in Jeje Lalpekhlua, Gregory Nelson and Andrea Orlandi in the last quarter of the match to force an equaliser. Lalpekhlua came closest near the six-yard area but NorthEast managed to see out the last-ditch effort to seal a deserved win.
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