Striker Chhetri scores hat-trick in NEUFC 5-1 rout .
Mumbai : India football captain Sunil Chhetri capped a superb display with a fine hat-trick to orchestrate Mumbai City FC’s 5-1 rout of North East United FC in the Indian Super League at the D Y Patil Stadium on Wednesday. Chhetri, who once again combined very well with Haitian Sony Norde and compatriot Subash Singh, scored from the penalty-spot in the 25th and 48th minutes, while volleying home from close range in-between in the 40th minute, to complete the second hat-trick of the season. Chennayin FC’s Steiven Mendoza had scored the first against FC Goa. The triple strike took the diminutive Indian striker’s tally of goals to six – the highest so far in the league this season – and included his double strike against Delhi Dynamos and a lone goal against FC Goa, both won 2-0 by Mumbai.
Then Norde finished off the match as a contest with a controlled strike in the 51st minute before fellow-Haitian team captain Frantz Bertin headed home three minutes from regulation time to complete NEU’s humiliation. NEU got their only goal of the game, which neutralised Chhetri’s opening goal, through Boithang Haokip in the 29th minute, before playing second fiddle right till the end to the home team. The third successive victory, all at home, propelled Mumbai to the second spot on the table. They have ten points now, two points behind leaders FC Pune City and level with FC Goa who have an inferior goal difference. The defeat, NEU’s fourth and all suffered away from home which broke their two-game winning sequence in Guwahati, left them stranded in seventh spot, one rung above cellar outfit Kerala Blasters, with 6 points.
Both teams missed a few half-chances to score before Mumbai shot into the lead in the 25th minute through a penalty award. It came off a counter attack when a surprisingly unmarked Chhetri collected the ball on the right side of the field, darted into the penalty area and laid a measured pass to Subhash Singh on his right. Subhash, without wasting time, crossed to the left. The ball struck the hand of a leaping defender Carlos Lopez leading to a penalty award which was coolly slotted home into the left corner of the goal by Chhetri, the India captain’s fourth strike in the last three games. However, Mumbai’s joy of taking the lead was short-lived as four minutes later North East drew level through a fine, curling left-footed free-kick from the right of the area by homegrown talent — Hoakip.
The ball swerved towards the goal, beating a couple of defenders forming the wall and India custodian Subrata Paul, who was rooted to his spot, on its way in. The home team bounced back into the lead again five minutes before half time, with Chhetri again showing good positioning sense to soft-volley a left-footer in, past rival custodian Rehenesh Paramba, off a headed ball from the right across the goalmouth by Subash Singh. It all started with a super chip from the left by Norde, who hood-winked a rival defender and found Subash on the right. This trio of Mumbai players often sliced through the porous NEU defense to spell danger to the visitors’ citadel, especially in the second half. Changing ends, Mumbai virtually finished off the game as a contest by scoring two goals in four minutes with some quicksilver moves that left the rival defense exposed.
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