COIMBATORE — Chennai City FC consolidated its lead at the top of the points table with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over title contenders East Bengal in a crunch I-League encounter here at the Nehru Stadium here Jan. 14.
Spanish striker Pedro Manzi scored his 11th goal of the 12th I-League and Romario Jesuraj netted the other to ensure the hosts are perched firmly on top of the standings with 27 points from 12 games, a clear five points ahead of second-placed Churchill Brothers.
East Bengal, on the other hand, remains on 19 points with a game in hand despite Laldanmawia Ralte's fourth strike of the campaign, giving them an early lead. Their sixth position in the league table points to their hopes of a first ever Hero I-League triumph fast fading away.
Both teams made one change to their starting eleven from their previous game. East Bengal coach Alejandro Garcia was forced to replace Lalram Chullova, red-carded in the game against the Indian Arrows, with Samad Ali Mallick.
Chennai gaffer Akbar Nawas, on the other hand, started Pravitto Raju in place of Shem Martin Eugene.
East Bengal took an early lead in the ninth minute of the game through Laldanmawia Ralte, who scored his fourth of the campaign.
The visitors got a corner and Lalrindika Ralte put the ball over towards the far post, which central defender Borja headed back across goal for Danmawia to nod home from close.
Chennai then upped the ante looking for an equalizer and a wonderful Roberto Eslava ball found its way into the box to midfield star Nestor but Samad shielded him away in a timely fashion.
Then in the 34th minute, Nestor's midfield mate Sandro unleashed a rasping drive from outside the box but East Bengal keeper Rakshit Dagar brought about a good save.
Chennai went into the break a goal down but clearly on the ascendancy.
They got their equalizer in the 49th minute of the second half through Manzi's 11th goal of the campaign, which also put him in joint top scorer's spot with Churchill's Willis Plaza.
Romario Jesuraj went out wide and cut in and then pulled the ball back for an onrushing Edwin Vanspaul. Vanspaul's effort towards goal found a deflection from Manzi and wrong-footed Dagar to enter the net.
The hosts then deservedly went ahead thanks also to a brilliant tactical change by Nawas. Raju was sent wide on the right flank and Romario Jesuraj brought in-field.
In the 70th minute, Raju collected the ball on the right flank after QEB left back Manoj Mohammad failed to intercept and cut inside to lay it off for Romario on top of the box. His shot found the QEB right corner, the ball rolling in past a befuddled Dagar.
Romario Jesuraj was adjudged the Hero of the Match.
Both Chennai and QEB play their next match in four day's time, the former against Aizawl at home while the latter against an in-form Indian Arrows, also at home in Kolkata.