Chennai City FC consolidated their pole position in the I-League standings with a stunning 2-1 victory over East Bengal at Kolkata’s Yuba Bharati Krirangan stadium on Tuesday.
Spaniards Sandro and Nestor scored in either half for the visitors while Mexican Enrique Esqueda scored for the hosts in the second half. Chennai now has 10 points from four games with three victories to boast of while East Bengal remain in the second position with six points and a game in hand.
Although the home team began with a sense of purpose and Chennai looked as if they wanted to sit deep in the initial stages of the first half, the visitors slowly imposed themselves in the game. Nestor and Sandro’s were influential and the former, in particular, was imperious. He fittingly scored the winner off a penalty.
Chennai made the game’s first foray in the fourth minute of the game when Nestor and Manzi combined to release Pravitto Raju inside the box, but Rakshit Dagar at goal thwarted his effort.
As the Chennai Spaniards, Nestor, Sandro and Manzi kept combining dangerously, coach Alejandro Garcia of East Bengal made an early change, bringing in Surabuddin Mallick in place of Laldanmawia Ralte in the 38th minute.
However, Chennai were not to be denied a deserving lead. Lalrindika Ralte, who had been booked a while back, inflicted a rough tackle on Sandro in injury time of the first half.
The resultant free-kick from just outside the box on the right was expertly slotted in by Sandro, eluding a diving Rakshit.
East Bengal began the second half with urgency and were immediately rewarded. Jobby Justin put Surabuddin through on the right and his cross from inside the box beat the Chennai defence and Mexican striker Enrique Esqueda slotted home.
Manzi’s had to leave the field in the 56th minute because of injury but it had no effect on Nestor and Sandro, with the former impressing again with deft touches and visionary passes while the hosts seemed to be running out of ideas in the attacking third.
Meanwhile, Esqueda, who has scored thrice for East Bengal in the league so far, was booked and was replaced by Bidhyasagar Singh.
Through Nestor’s class, Chennai found the winner in the dying minutes of the game. He found Raju in the clear with another great pass, who in turn released Romario Jesuraj inside the box with a brilliant ball behind the East Bengal backline.
Dagar had no option but to charge out and clip Jesuraj’s heels in an attempt to clear but only ended up bringing him down. Referee Crystal John had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Nestor converted calmly to finish what he had begun, and sent the Chennai camp into delirium.