HERO I-LEAGUE: Manzi tricks again as Chennai downs Gokulam

Coimbatore, January 4 2019:  Chennai City FC consolidated their lead at the top of the 12th Hero I-League standings after Pedro Manzi’s third hat-trick of the campaign helped them register a 3-2 win against Gokulam Kerala at Coimbatore’s Nehru Stadium on Friday.

Manzi scored in the eighth, 59th and 80th minutes to cancel out Mudde Musa (17th minute) and Joel Sunday’s (38th minute) goals for Gokulam. It may be noted that both sides were reduced to 10 men at the end of the first half.

Chennai dominated possession and took advantage of the extra space which had opened up in the second half. With this win, Chennai move to 24 points from eleven games and are three clear of Neroca FC at the top of the standings. 

Gokulam remain at eighth…their title hopes well and truly buried!  They adopted physical tactics to stop the marauding Spaniards of Chennai and it seemed to have worked initially. Despite the Kerala outfit taking a lead into the break the hosts later clawed their way back in the second half.

Coach Bino George selected Joel Sunday and Rajesh in place of Fabricio Ortiz (out for a card offence) and Pritam Singh. The hosts made one change as they brought back Romario Jesuraj for Vijay.

Chennai took the lead in the eighth minute when Manzi’s first-time volley bounced and eluded keeper Shibinraj. Though defender Abhishek Das tried to clear off the line it still went onto the roof of the Gokulam net!

Gokulam equalized nine minutes later as Musa’s reflex shot bulged the roof of the Chennai net. The Kerala outfit soon earned a penalty as Marton Eugene was judged to have handled the ball inside the box.

Though Sunday, after having scored off a penalty in the previous game, missed this time around (thanks to a fine save by Santana) he still hit home on the rebound to score his third goal of the campaign.

Also, Gokulam’s Jayaraj and Chennai’s Pandiyan Srinivasan got into a needless scuffle and were promptly sent off just before half-time.

Chennai upped the ante in the second-half while Gokulam’s Christian Sabah missed a golden chance to score. And as Sandro hit the side netting in the 58th minute…Chennai knew they were getting closer to a goal!

A minute later, Manzi struck his second (and ninth in the league) goal as he shrugged off Abhishek Das to head over Shibinraj into the Gokulam goal. Chennai were back on level terms!

Manzi got his hat-trick in the 80th minute when he pounced on the rebound ahead of a defender and drilled it into the Gokulam net. With that goal he became top-scorer in the league with 10 goals so far.

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