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I-League 2018/19 Roundup: Matchday 17 [11/02-18/02]

I-League Matchday 17
NEROCA FC players applaud their fans after a thrilling 3-3 match against Chennai City FC in the 2018/19 I-League encounter. Photo Courtesy: @NerocaFC

Pedro Manzi scored five goals in two matches to keep Chennai City FC on top of the 2018/19 I-League table. East Bengal FC climbs to second place, while the status of the Real Kashmir-Minerva match is unclear

Manzi on the double as Chennai go 5 points clear

FULL TIME: Shillong Lajong FC 2-4 Chennai City FC 4
SHILLONG LAJONG: Kitboklang Pale (23’); Samuel Lyngdoh (85’ [P]); CHENNAI CITY: Sandro (7’); Manzi (78’, 90’); Nestor (81’)

Pedro Manzi scored two goals and set up another in the space of 12 minutes, to help league leaders Chennai City FC resist the challenge of Shillong Lajong FC at the Shillong’s JLN Stadium, Shillong.

His Spaniards Sandro and Nestor scored the other two, while Shillong’s goals were scored by Kitboklang Pale and Samuel Lyngdoh respectively.

The game began with Chennai City FC pressing hard and high from the first minute. The Spanish duo of Pedro Manzi and Sandro Rodriguez combined well to threaten the young Lajong defense.

The pressure yielded results when a corner-kick from Sandro curled straight into the goal to beat keeper Phurba Lachempain the seventh minute to give Chennai the lead.

Lachempa, one of Shillong bright spots this season, had to leave the field to injury. Shillong started to string attacks of their own to threaten Chennai’s debutant keeper Mauro Boerchio’s goal.

Their efforts finally paid dividends when Kitboklang Pale came up with a clinical finish, after a brilliant through ball from Phrangki Buam in the 23rdminute.

At the end of the first half, the scoreline read 1-1.

Lajong began the second half on an enterprising note with Phrangki Buam and Samuel Lyngdoh missing their chances to put the hosts ahead.

However, they were made to pay in the last 12 minutes when Manzi headed in a Sandro freekick to put the visitors ahead in the 78th minute. Three minutes later he latched on to a long ball from Kaplan and cross towards fellow Spaniard, Nestor Jesus, to make it 1-3 in the 81st minute.

Shillong fought back to win a penalty when Kaplan brought down Mahesh Singh in the box. Samuel Lyngdoh stepped up and converted a penalty in the 85th minute. 2-3 with five minutes to go.

However, Manzi put the game to bed with a 90th-minute strike to secure three points for his team and become top-scorer of the league with 18 goals.

Chennai is now at 37 points, five points clear of their nearest rivals – East Bengal and Real Kashmir. Shillong remains at the bottom of the table with 10 points and will face relegation candidate Gokulam Kerala in the next match.

Click here for highlights of the match

Game of the season: Pedro Manzi 3 – NEROCA FC

FULL TIME: NEROCA FC 3-3 Chennai City FC
NEROCA FC: Chidi (52’), Chencho (68’), Aryn Williams (87’); CHENNAI CITY: Pedro Manzi (34’; 41’; 45’+1’)

Earlier in the week, NEROCA FC produced a stunning comeback from 3-0 down to earn a 3-3 draw to put Chennai City FC’s title hopes in jeopardy at the Khuman Lampak Stadium, Imphal.

What could easily become the game of the season started with NEROCA dominated the opening half an hour before Pedro Manzi scored a 12-minute hat-trick to put the league leaders in the driving seat.

In the opening exchanges, NEROCA had multiple opportunities to go ahead. Bhutanese striker, Chencho Gyatsen, failed to hit the target after Malem put him through in the 12th minute. Katsumi Yusa’s failed to hit the target with his headers in the 17th and 20th-minute mark. Chencho rounded the goalkeeper Chennai goalie in the 26th minute, but the angle proved to be too tight to hit the empty goal.

After the relentless pressure from the home team, Manzi struck.

Nestor Jesus collected the ball on the left flank and dragged the NEROCA defense with him. Manzi made a clever run in between the defenders and got at the end of the pass. A left-footed finish put the visitors in front in the 34th minute.

Seven minutes later, the home team gifted Manzi his second. NEROCA’s defender Varney Kallon gave the ball away to Manzi in the middle of the pitch. The Liberian was the last man, which allowed Manzi a free run towards goal and slotted home to make it 2-0.

Two minutes later, Malem latched on to an Aryn Williams ball, but the midfielder’s strike towards goal was parried away by the substitute keeper Kabir, who had come in place of Santana in the 30th minute.

In the first minute of added time, Pedro Manzi then completed his hat-trick, his fourth of the league. Pandiyan’s run on the right enabled him to deliver a cross into the box. The Spaniard Manzi struck his left foot out to beat Thapa on the near post.

3-0 to the visitors at the break.

In the second half, it was NEROCA’s turn to turn on the heat. In the 52nd minute, Chenco played substitute Felix Chidi inside the box between two defenders. The Nigerian calmly rounded the keeper and slid the ball with his left boot into the Chennai net for his sixth goal of the league campaign. 1-3

Chidi nearly scored his second when he met with an Aryn Williams cross from the right. Three minutes later, Chencho scored the second for the home team. Singham Subash’s cross it from the right was headed back by Katsumi towards Chencho. The Bhutanese drilled the ball past Kabir was his second goal in as many games. 2-3 in the 68th minute.

Chencho missed the chance to draw level after a defensive error saw him one on one with Kabir, who brought up a brilliant save to deny the hosts.

With three minutes to go, the Chennai defense looked to hold on for the win but Aryn Williams had other ideas. A loose ball outside the penalty box was struck fiercely by the Australian and Kabir found it too hot to handle as the ball bundled in at his near post. 3-3 in the 87th minute.

In the second minute of additional time, NEROCA could have walked away with all three points. A through ball towards the six-yard box from Sebastian bypassed all defenders leaving Malem and Katsumi to finish from three yards out.

Malem conspired to balloon the ball over the crossbar, much to the dismay of his teammates and the boisterous crowd. At the other end, with 10 seconds remaining, Manzi nearly broke Manipuri hearts when he controlled Nestor’s pass into the NEROCA box. The Spaniard made space and let fly a left-footer with Lalit Thapa rooted to his spot. The ball flew over the crossbar and that was that.

Chennai City FC holds on to pole position with 34 points, while NEROCA FC is now placed fifth in the points table with 26 points.

Click here for highlights of the match

Bagan leave it late to overcome Aizawl

FULL TIME: Aizawl FC 1-2 Mohun Bagan AC
AIZAWL: Kromah (30’); MOHUN BAGAN Henry Kisekka (22’); Bikramjit Singh (78’)

A late goal by Bikramjit Singh handed Mohun Bagan a 2-1 win over Aizawl FC 2-1 at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Aizawl.

Khalid Jamil’s team attacked from the onset and went ahead in the 22nd minute. An Abinash Ruidas free-kick from long range was brought down by Kisekka on the 22nd minute before the Ugandan calmly slotted it into the goal.

However, Aizawl came back with a goal of their own just eight minutes later, when Kromah lined up a shot from outside the Mohun Bagan penalty area and sent it into the bottom corner.

In the second half, Egyptian Omar Elhussieny was subbed in place of veteran Mehtab Hossain. However, the winner came through in the 78th minute, when a Sony Norde free-kick was met by Bikramjit Singh to make it 2-1 to the visitors.

Aizawl gave it an almighty effort in the last 10 minutes but the Mariners shut shop to hold on to the win. managed to hold on to their lead till the end.

Mohun Bagan is on the sixth spot with 26 points, while Aizawl is on eighth place with 10 points.

Gokulam-Arrows play out forgettable draw

FULL TIME: Gokulam Kerala FC 1-1 Indian Arrows
GOKULAM KERALA: Marcus Joseph (64’); INDIAN ARROWS Rahul KP (22’)

Gokulam Kerala FC extended their winless run to three months with a 1-1 draw against the Indian Arrows at the EMS Corporation Stadium, Kozhikode.

After an initial spell of pressure by the Malabarians, the Indian Arrows team slowly started to find their bearings took the lead in the 22nd minute of the game through Rahul K.P.

Ashish Rai delivered a cross from the right flank towards Rahim Ali, who was positioned inside the box on the left. The forward’s cushioned header was met by onrushing Rahul, who had to check his run and swivel to volley in past Arnab Das to make it 1-0.
After the break, Gokulam equalised in the 64th minute through the Marcus Joseph.

Arjun Jayaraj had made the initial foray with a run down the left of the box and his ball intended for Marcus was partially cut-off by the Arrows defense. But the half-cleared ball fell to Marcus who drilled the ball home with a left-footed strike.

This is the Trinidadian’s fourth goal in as many games since being drafted in during the January transfer window.

The Arrows had a golden chance to get back into the lead in the 70th minute but Fabian brought about a brilliant goalline save to deny them. Then in the dying minutes, Marcus had another opportunity to seal the deal for the home side but failed to convert.

With this result, Gokulam stays in the 10th position with 13 points – three above bottom place Shillong Lajong FC. While Arrows maintained their seventh position on the points table with 17 points.

Click here for highlights of the match.

Willis Plaza halts East Bengal’s winning run

FULL TIME: East Bengal FC 1-1 Churchill Brothers SC
EAST BENGAL: Kassim Aidara (78′); CHURCHILL BROTHERS: Willis Plaza (69′)

Willis Plaza scored his 18th goal of the campaign to put the brakes on East Bengal’s four-match winning streak at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata. The result takes East Bengal FC to the second spot on 32 points – tied with Real Kashmir, while Churchill Brothers are on 31 points on the fourth spot.

The game started with East Bengal pressing hard from the first minute, but Churchill Brothers kept their defense compact to deny the hosts any clear opportunities. At the other end, the home side’s defense had to contend with Churchill’s Khalid Aucho, Christian Remi, and Anthony Wolfe. However, the first half ended goalless.

The second half began with East Bengal on the front foot, but it was Churchill Brothers nearly landed the sucker punch in the 50th minute. A corner kick from Nicholas was headed by Novakovic, but Rakshit Dagar came to the rescue of the hosts.

Churchill’s efforts were rewarded when Willis Plaza seized the opportunity during a miscommunication between Borja and Dagar to put the visitors ahead in the 68th minute.

The hosts regrouped and went on the attack before being presented with a dead ball situation from just outside the Churchill box in the 77th minute. Lalrindika ‘Didika’ Ralte sent in a tempting cross, which took a touch off Kassim Aidaraa’s head before going into the net. 1-1 in the 78th minute.

In the end, both the sides had to settle for a point each as the title race continues to heat up.

Laldanmawia Ralte singlehandedly destroys Lajong

FULL TIME: East Bengal FC 5-0 Shillong Lajong FC
EAST BENGAL: Laldanmawia Ralte (8’, 27’, 61’); Jobby Justin (28’); Esqueda (45’)

Earlier in the week, a Laldanmawia hat-trick helped East Bengal thrash Shillong Lajong 5-0 at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata. Jobby Justin and Enrique Esqueda were the other two scorers.

The home team went ahead in the eighth minutes. A corner delivery from Lalrindika ‘Didika’ Ralte was met by his fellow Mizo Laldanmawia who headed highest to make it 1-0.

Shillong did create chances of their own. A free-kick by Samuel Lyngdoh sailed over by inches in the 22nd minute and in the next minute later, Buam was clear inside the box, but his first touch let him down.

In the 27th minute, Danmawia scored the goal of the match. Borja Gomez played a long ball from just outside his box, Danmawia timed his run but brought the ball down with his first touch and then lobbed the Lajong keeper from 25 yards out.

It all fell apart for the visitors in the very next minute. A ball from Tony Dovale found Esqueda on the right. The Mexican lobbed the ball over an onrushing goalie where Jobby Justin rose above two Lajong defenders to nod home for his ninth goal of the campaign.

Esqueda got his name on the scoresheet in the 45th minute. Didika’s ball from the right found the Mexican inside the box. Esqueda chested the ball down and tapped in with a volley past Lachempa.

4-0 at half time and it was game over.

Danmawia was not done yet as he sealed his hattrick in the 61st minute. Kassim Aidara found substitute Jamie Colado on the right flank. The young Spaniard turned his marker in and drove towards goal, cutting in for Justin, who stepped over for Danmawia behind him. The Mizo slotted home to make it 5-0.

Shillong Lajong remains at the bottom of the table after having conceded 44 goals in 16 games.

Click here for highlights of the match.

Real Kashmir-Minerva match in limbo

The status of the match between Real Kashmir FC and Minerva Punjab FC is in limbo. The match was scheduled to be played on the 15th of February, but the terrorist attacks in Kashmir led to concerns over security and the need to play the game at this juncture.

Minerva Punjab FC’s maverick owner, Ranjit Bajaj, had asked for the match to be postponed among other things.

The official statement from the AIFF did not provide any answers.

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