Spanish striker Pedro Manzi struck a hat-trick to help Chennai City FC outplay Indian Arrows 4-1 in the opening match of the 12th season of I-League in Coimbatore on Friday.
Pedro scored in the 31st, 49th and 64th minutes while Romario Jesuraj got the other goal for Chennai in the 76th minute.
For the Indian Arrows, captain Amarjit Singh Kiyam scored the lone goal at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium, which game in the opening two minutes.
Chennai’s Singaporean coach Akbar Nawas opted to go with Pedro as the sole striker with wingers Nestor from Spain and Romario Jesuraj assisting him.
Another Spaniard, Sandro operated in the middle of the attack. Gaurav Bora was in the defensive midfield role just ahead of a three-man back line.
Floyd Pinto, the Arrows coach, put Rahul KP ahead with Rahim Ali in a roving role and Amarjeet Kiyam and Stalin holding the fort in the centre of midfield with Jeakson Singh behind them. Prabhsukhan Gill, at the goal, was supported by a four-man defence.
The Arrows could not have asked for a better start as captain Amarjit struck in the second minute. Rahul KP, who had a fantastic first half, ran down the right flank and his cross across goal saw the Chennai keeper Kabir only manage to parry the ball in the path of an onrushing Amarjit, who slotted home calmly.
The early goal was a definite wake-up call for the hosts as they sprung into action, in particular, the combination of Nestor and Pedro. The first glimpse of things to come was evident in the fourth minute, when a 1-2 between the two found Manzi in the clear inside the box but he failed to score the equaliser.
Chennai had two clear chances in the rest of the first half which they clearly dominated. First, Nestor missed a sitter in the 18th minute as Jesuraj’s cross from the right found him with a free header and an open goal six yards away. He lobbed the header over the bar.
Then in the 46th minute, from Sandro’s lob inside the box, Pedro had to just lob an onrushing Prabhsukan Gill in the Arrows goal, but his effort ricocheted off the bar.
In between, Pedro struck for the first time in the 31st minute to get Chennai back to level terms. Nestor left Narender for dead in the right side of the Arrows defence and cut in to unleash a wonderful through ball inside the box. Pedro turned Gill with his first touch and then slammed home with his second, from a narrow-angle in the end.
The Arrows again had a chance to score early in the second half but Rahim Ali muffed a chance from inside the box.
In the 49th minute, Pedro put Chennai ahead, controlling a lob with his head and then shrugging off both Narender and Ashish Rai with sheer power, before unleashing a powerful left footer to beat a diving Gill.
The Uruguay-born Spaniard then completed a deserving hat-trick in the 64th minute, when Chennai were awarded a penalty as the ball found a falling Ashish Rai’s trailing hand inside the box, from yet another Nestor initiated move.
Then Jesuraj, whose tireless runs and crosses from the right were a striking feature of the entire game, found the net from close range in the 76th minute off a Sandro cross from the left, effectively killing the game.