The visitors marked their fifth draw of the campaign in a six-goal thriller.
In what turned out to be one of the games of the I-League so far, NEROCA FC came from three goals down in the first half to draw 3-3 against Chennai City FC, at Imphal. The hosts had fallen prey to the ruthless Pedro Manzi, who notched his fourth I-League hat-trick this season, within the first 45-minutes.
However, NEROCA came back with all guns blazing in the second half, as goals from Felix Chidi, Chencho Gyeltshen and Aryn Williams helped them to script a comeback that few could have predicted at half-time.
Here are the five things that we learned from the game:
5. Have Chennai City been given too much respect this season?
Against the Northeast side, Chennai City were caught off-gaurd and received several threats while defending
Chennai City have been one of the best teams of the I-League this season, but too often other teams have let their reputation precede them and rolled over for the South Indian side. As NEROCA showed in the second half, by playing smart, attacking football and using the width of the pitch, teams can catch them off guard and give them severe headaches while defending.
4. Did Manuel Fraile make the same tactical error that he did against East Bengal in the first half?
Against East Bengal in their last game, Fraile was guilty of asking his dynamic team to defend and play reactive football. That cost them the game, as despite taking a very early lead, the Imphal-based team played catch up and tried to hold on to the slender lead throughout the match.
Against Chennai, he setup his team to replicate that tactic once again. but it backfired on him. In the second half, he gave the likes of Katsumi Yusa, Chencho, Chidi and Williams the license to attack and they did so with clinical aggression. Going forward, Fraile should ensure that his team plays the kind of football they did in the second half and they will be a match for just about any opposition in the league.
3. Does Subhash Singh deserve a call-up to the Indian national team?
At 29 years of age, Subhash Singh is not getting any younger, but he still has that lethal pace and eye for a pass, that could make him a vital component of the Indian team in the post-Stephen Constantine era. Yusa, with his six assists and Chencho with two goals and one assist in just two games, maybe running away with all the plaudits, but the Manipuri forward has been the underappreciated hero of his side.
He ticks all the boxes, he has good ball control, works his socks off and is a team player. If given the opportunity, Subhash could certainly set an excellent example for the likes of Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Udanta Singh, India’s most talked-about wide forwards in the last few years.
2. Was procuring Chencho the best piece of business by an Indian club in the window?
The Bhutanese forward proved his value at the Khuman Lampak Stadium with a clinical display
Let’s get one thing straight, Chencho is a prolific striker and there are no two ways about it. The fact that Bengaluru FC deemed him surplus to requirements shows the level they operate at, but it was a shrewd bit of business by NEROCA to procure him on loan.
The Bhutanese forward has already scored twice and assisted once in the little time that he has been involved with the team, but he could prove to be crucial to determining how strongly the Manipuri club ends the season.
1. Is the pressure getting to Chennai City?
Chennai City have been the favorites to win the league for a while now, but it seems the pressure is getting to them. The club capitulated in a spectacular manner in the second half, despite Manzi scoring that outstanding hat-trick. In fact, they were lucky to not end up losing, as both Chencho and Salem spurned sitters towards the end that could have won NEROCA the game.
Chennai are still atop the table with 34 points from 16 games, but as of now, the advantage resides with East Bengal with their two games in hand. Things are only going to get more heated up from now till the last matchday of the season.