An inspired NorthEast United FC bounced back from 1-3 down to beat Chennaiyin FC 4-3 in an Indian Super League match here Thursday, handing the defending champions their third straight defeat of the season.
Bartholomew Ogbeche was the star for the Highlanders with a stupendous hat-trick, which helped the visitors neutralise Chennaiyin FC’s advantage.
NEU FC also went top of the standings with seven points following their second win from three games while CFC languishes at the bottom after losses to Bengaluru FC, FC Goa and the team from north-east.
Rowlin Borges scored the winning goal in the 54th minute after the two teams had ended the first half at 3-3.
After a dramatic first half which saw six goals being scored, the second saw NEU FC doing well to hold on to the lead after Borges’ own goal put Chennaiyin ahead.
The game got off to a fast start with both teams looking to seize the early advantage. The home team, with the influential Jeje Lalpheklua missing out on the starting XI, tested the rival defence and a corner taken by Isaac which was headed in by Borges into his own goal.
Thoi Singh scored his first goal for Chennaiyin FC, in the 15th minute, after latching on to a pass from Isaac as the host doubled the lead.
NEU FC bounced back through skipper Ogbeche. He scored his first in the 29th minute, a typical poacher’s goal. Federico Gallego’s shot was blocked from the left and Eli Sabia’s attempt to clear the ball failed and Ogbeche slid it past Karanjit Singh.
Three minutes later, the home side increased the lead to 3-1 as Thoi Singh added to his tally after he was set up brilliantly from the left by Raphael Augusto.
NEU FC hit back when Ogbeche scored in the 37th minute to reduce the margin to 2-3.
The visitors levelled the game two minutes later as the Nigerian beat the CFC goalie with a perfectly timed shot.
Chennaiyin kept pushing for the equaliser but were thwarted by an alert NEU FC defence. Coach John Gregory brought in Jeje in the last 10 minutes and he infused some urgency into the proceedings in tandem with experienced Augusto and Salom but couldn’t find the net.
The home side had its chances but could not make most of it and was left pondering what could have been even as NEU FC improved their record against CFC with a memorable performance.