Chennai City FC consolidated their lead on top of the I-League standings with a 3-2 win over Gokulam Kerala FC on Friday. Riding on Pedro Manzi’s third hat-trick of the campaign, Chennai managed to repeat first leg’s 3-2 scoreline against Gokulam.
Manzi scored in the eighth, 59th and 80th minute of the game, cancelling out Mudde Musa and Joel Sunday’s strikes to help his side register a comeback victory after both sides were reduced to 10 men at the end of the first half.
With this win, Chennai move to 24 points from eleven games and are three clear of Neroca, who have played the same number of matches.
Gokulam remain eighth with their title hopes well and truly buried. Chennai took the lead as early as the eighth minute of the game when Sandro and Pedro Manzi combined well once again. Chennai got a corner and Sandro delivered with pinpoint accuracy towards Manzi, who was lurking unmarked on the far post.
Gokulam equalised nine minutes later when Rajesh’s header off a wonderful free-kick delivery by Jayaraj into the box struck the Chennai upright and fell to Mudde Musa, whose reflex shot saw the ball hit the roof of the net.
Just before the half-time whistle, Jayaraj and Chennai’s Pandiyan Srinivasan, who had just come on in place of Eugene, got into a needless scuffle and were promptly shown the red card by referee Om Prakash Thakur.
With both teams down to 10-men, Chennai upped the ante in the second half. Then, in the 58th minute, Sandro hit the side netting and Chennai knew they were getting closer.
A minute later, Manzi struck his second of the game and ninth of the league. A floated ball from Nestor into the Gokulam box saw him shrug off Abhishek Das and head the ball into the net. Chennai were back level. Manzi completed his hat-trick in the 80th minute of the game.