Ludhiana, 10 December: Two goals in the dying minutes of the game enabled Punjab overpower defending champions Chennai City 3-1
to register their first win of the 13th Hero I-League season here on Tuesday.
The hosts took the lead through substitute Dipander Dicka in the 78th minute before Pedro Manzi equalized for the visitors in the 85th minute. Punjab were rewarded for their sheer persistence, through late goals from Thoiba Singh and Sergio Barboza to earn full points.
Punjab head coach Yan Law made a host of changes from his side that drew 1-1 at home with Quess East Bengal. Anwar Ali returned to the line-up after having served his one-match suspension. Aser Dipanda Dicka started on the bench while Jason Hart returned to the eleven.
Akbar Nawas, on the other hand, fielded a conventional 4-3-3, looking to cause trouble to the Punjab full-backs. He made only one change from his Chennai City line-up that won 1-0 at home against TRAU FC, with Shem Martin Eugene starting in place of Fito Miranda.
Both sides kicked-off proceedings with serious attacking intent, looking to capitalise on the slightest of lapses. In the ninth minute, it was Punjab who came close to taking the lead. A deflected Calvin Lobo attempt on goal almost wrong-footed Chennai goalkeeper Nauzet Garcia Santana but the Spaniard did well to recover and make the save.
Punjab were threatening while in possession, stitching together forward passes while Chennai displayed a calmer approach by playing out from the back.
The hosts had a golden opportunity before the break in the 39th minute when Sergio Barboza, with only the keeper to beat, failed to find the back of the net, rather producing another good save out of Garcia Santana.
Dipanda Dicka was introduced in the second half having replaced Girik Mahesh Khosla in the 56th minute. The substitution paid dividends, when in the 78th minute, Dicka leapt highest to meet a corner from Sanju Pradhan, as Punjab took the lead with twelve minutes to play.
The visitors, despite falling behind, didn’t give up the chase. In the 85th minute, a seemingly speculative delivery into the box was met by Manzi, and he made no mistake in finishing it with fine aplomb to level the scores.
Punjab had now conceded a late equaliser for the second game running, but the complexion of the match turned on its head soon. A late scramble in the Chennai City box was fully capitalised on by Thoiba Singh, and the 16-year-old embarked on a celebration of a lifetime to restore his side’s lead.
The icing on the cake was added in the first minute of stoppage time. With four minutes added on, Makan Winkle Chote found himself in some space on the right flank which prompted him to deliver one inside the box, and the delivery was met spectacularly by a diving header from Sergio Barboza, who made it 3-1 for the hosts in spectacular fashion.
The win takes Punjab FC to the fifth place in the Hero I-League table with 4 points, while Chennai City slip to sixth.
Punjab goalkeeper Kiram Limbu was adjudged to be the Hero of the Match for his outstanding display between the sticks.