Hero I-League: Spectacular rally by Neroca to hold CCFC

Hits back after trailing 3-0; Manzi’s hat-trick for Chennai City goes in vain

Manipur giant Neroca FC made a spectacular comeback overcoming a three-goal deficit to hold title-aspirant Chennai City FC 3-3 in a riveting contest of the Hero I-League at the Khuman Lampak Stadium here on Monday.

The few hundred fans who braved a general strike to support the home side were treated to some fantastic action.

Plan back-fires

Pedro Manzi’s hat-trick, his fourth in the tournament, went in vain as Chennai City’s defensive plan back-fired in the second half.

Neroca reduced the margin through substitute Felix Chidi soon after resumption before Chencho Gyeltshen struck the second midway through and Aryn Glen Williams fetched the equaliser three minutes from time.

The result opened up the title race, putting Chennai City under the threat of losing its two-point advantage if Kolkata giant East Bengal wins its next two matches.

Chennai City stayed on top of the standings with 34 points from 16 matches, but its position is fragile as East Bengal, currently at the fourth spot with 28 points from 14 matches, has the chance to draw level.

Riding a fine show in the last 10 minutes of the opening half, Chennai City opened the account in the 35th minute, Manzi finishing a fine lay-in from Nestor Jesus.

Seven minutes later Neroca’s Liberian defender Varney Kallon gifted Manzi an opportunity with a miss-pass and the Spaniard did not make any mistake.

Manzi completed his hat-trick in injury-time, working on an assist from Edwin Vanspaul to secure a big cushion for Chennai City.

All out attack

Just before finding the three-goal lead, Chennai City lost its experienced goalkeeper Nauzet Garcia to injury. This seemed to go the host’s way as Neroca doubled its offense with a couple of changes after the break.

This overtly aggressive approach seemed to unnerve Chennai City, which lost its composure in the face of the blitzkrieg and surrendered.

The result: Neroca FC 3 (Felix Chidi 52, Chencho Gyeltshen 68, Aryn Glen Williams 87) drew with Chennai City FC 3 (Pedro Manzi 35, 42, 45+1).

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