Spanish duo of Pedro Manzi and Sandro Rodriguez scored a brace each as Chennai City FC beat Aizawl FC 4-3 to take a step closer to the I-League crown at the Nehru stadium in Coimbatore on Friday.
Rodriguez scored in the 28th and 69th minutes while Manzi struck in the 60th and 80th minute.
The win took Chennai City to 30 points with seven more games to go and an eight-point gap from their nearest rivals at this stage.
Chennai took the lead in the 28th minute when Pravitto Raju set up Nestor with a cut back. The Spaniard displayed vision to leave it for Sandro, who fired from a distance and the ball caught goalkeeper Gurpreet’s palms before going into the Aizawl net.
Ten minutes later, Alfred Jaryan muscled the ball away from Pandiyan in the center of midfield and played a quick 1-2 with Kasagga and upon getting the ball back, released Albert who had made a darting run into the box from the right. The talented youngster, brought back by Aizawl coach Stanley Rozario after not getting much game-time, coolly slotted the ball between Santana’s legs and into the Chennai net.
From then till the 60th minute of the game, Aizawl clearly looked the better team and threatened many a time to take the lead. Ivorian Zikahi Dodoz was guilty of missing at least two gilt-edged opportunities to score. Chennai also had their fair share of misses and Romario was the main culprit, missing a sitter in the 58th minute after misdirecting a volley earlier.
Then Manzi took over.
A ball cleared by the Romario from the Chennai back-line bounced in front of Manzi just inside the Aizawl half near the right touchline. The Spanish sniper took a touch forward, looked up, saw keeper Gurpreet off his line and fired from 40 yards out to lob the keeper and send the ball into the Aizawl net.
The goal took him to the top of the I-League goal scorers list with his 12th of the campaign.
It was a goal feast from then on with Sandro getting his second of the game in the 69th, not for the first time in this year’s campaign, swinging in a brilliantly taken free-kick, to beat Gurpreet all ends up.
Nestor, who had a relatively quieter day, then got into the mix, playing in the perfectly weighted ball into the box for Manzi, who had initiated the move from the right. The striker chipped in calmly over the keeper for this 13th.
Then, late in the game, Aizawl briefly threatened an outrageous comeback with two outstanding goals, ushering in a thrilling finish.
First, Isaac controlled a second ball off a corner, took a touch forward with his left foot to create space and curled it intelligently over Santana in the Chennai goal. A minute later, Aizawl intercepted the ball in the midfield and Mapuia, played on inside the box, shrugged off his marker to unleash a right-footer past Santana. It was Mapuia’s third of the season.
It was a brave effort by Aizawl but in the end, Chennai ran out deserving winners to consolidate their position at the top.