Chennai City FC took a giant step towards their best I-League title overcoming Shillong Lajong 4-2 away from home in what proved to be a goal fest. Akbar Nawas' side did not look convincing for most parts of the game but got the job done by securing all three points which is the most important aspect.
It was the table toppers who opened the scoring through their attacking midfielder Sandro Rodriguez and it came in a supreme fashion when he somehow managed to slot the ball inside the back of the net directly from a corner. When Phurba Lachenpa tried to stop the ball from crossing the line, the shot-stopper got injured and was forced off in the seventh minute of the game.
When the game looked stretched, Kitboklang Pale broke through an excellent counter-attack to evade the goalkeeper and score a goal to equalize the score. The outcome was the same when Sandro Rodriguez took the free-kick and Pedro Manzi scored an excellent directed header to regain the lead. Breaking through the counter-attack, the striker found his compatriot Nestor who had the simpler option to head the ball inside the empty net.
Four minutes later, Shillong won a penalty which was calmly converted by Samuel Kynshi to cut short the lead to just one until Pedro Manzi found the back of the net in the 90th minute to seal the game.
In this article, we shall look at three talking points from this goal fest.
#1 Pedro Manzi was too hot to handle
During the first half, Pedro Manzi's game was arguably nil, but he managed to produce a moment out of nothing. The striker had a chance to give Chennai the lead for the second time in the game for the second time, but he missed a glaring chance from close range.
However, it was a completely different story in the second half. When Sandro Rodriguez crossed the ball from a free kick, he was there to head the ball into the back of the net. He played a huge role in the third goal by producing a peach of a cross to find Nestor Gordillo.
The fourth goal came when Pedro Manzi positioned himself to elude contact from the defenders to bag a brace. The Spanish International is currently the highest scorer in the league with 17 goals this term.
#2 Shillong midfielders were able to control the game, but Chennai had too much quality
Shillong Lajong must have been furious to concede a goal in that manner early on in the game. But, they managed to keep the Spanish triumvirate of Pedro Manzi, Sandro Rodriguez, and Nestor Gordillo quiet for seventy minutes until a flurry goals came in at the end of the game.
During the first half, Shillong Lajong midfielder pushed higher up the pitch and started to give problems to Chennai City's defence who coped up with well. Since they were not decisive in the final third, they were not able to score more than one from open play today. On the other hand, they preferred to counter press Sandro and Nestor to cut down the supply to Pedro Manzi.
Samuel Kynshi, Lalrohlua, and Phrangki Buam worked their socks off up and down. Besides, they linked up well with their full-backs to tickle the ball around to frustrate their opponents.
#3 Jozef Kaplan was exposing his own defence
The absence of Roberto Eslava was clearly visible in the backline. The Spanish International is one of the best players in the league and any side will get hurt when he is not on the pitch. It has been the case with Chennai City FC who have leaked five goals in the last two games without his presence.
Jozef Kaplan, who filled in Eslava's position was very untidy throughout the game. Whenever he had the ball, he decided to run past people which created a huge hole at the back. Besides, his poor decision making coupled with lack of pace got his defence exposed against the pace of Kitboklang Pale and Naorem Mahesh Singh.
He showed his reckless nature by bringing down a player inside the penalty box to concede a late goal. He did not track back quickly enough when his team needed him to. Shillong scored only one goal from open play, thanks to their poor decision making in the final third.