Mumbai: Sunil Chhetri put on a stellar show in front of the home crowd at DY Patil stadium as Mumbai City thrashed NorthEast United FC 5-1 to climb to second in the Indian Super League table. Chhetri also became the first Indian player to score a hat-trick in the ISL as Mumbai City recorded a third home win on the trot.
A fairly even first half ended 2-1 in favour of Mumbai but NorthEast were arguably the better team going forward. Mumbai City’s forwards stole the show in the second, however, with some scintillating forward play as Chhetri, Sony Norde and Subhash Singham combined with devastating effect.
NorthEast should have taken the early lead but the in-form Nicolas Velez sliced his shot from two yards away. The Highlanders would pay for that miss soon as Chhetri latched on to a mistake from Reagan Singh at left back , ran at the defence and found Subhash on the right, whose cross was handled by a defender. Chhetri calmly chipped the penalty past TP Rehenesh – a ‘Panenka’ to get off the mark on the night.
NorthEast scored immediately after a freekick from a tight angle on the left through Boithang Haokip as he squeezed past Subrata Paul at his near post. Subrata, who was solid otherwise throughout the night, was at fault for that equaliser, which came within five minutes of Mumbai’s first.
With five minutes to go for the half, the electric Haitian Norde lofted a delicious pass from the left flank to the far post which Subhash headed back across the face of goal first time. Chhetri was on hand to cushion a left footed volley, also first time, from two yards out and ran to the singing section of the home fans for a now-familiar celebration.
Mumbai started second half with much more purpose. Chhetri, a with pirouette down the middle, played Subash down the right who won a corner. A poorly mistimed overhead kick from Chhetri from the corner was inexplicably handled by Andre Bikey inside the box for the second penalty of the night. This one was hit hard and to the right side of the goalkeeper as Chhetri celebrated a well-deserved hattrick.
Within six minutes of the second half, Mumbai got their fifth goal. Juan Aguilera, who was tremendous in the second half in Mumbai’s midfield, played Norde in behind the defence as he broke the offside trap, feigned a shot at the onrushing goalkeeper and then coolly sidefooted it into the net.
From then on it was a matter of seeing the game through for Nicolas Anelka’s men. Pratesh Shirodkar came on for Subhash as Anelka reverted to a 4-4-2. Despite that, Mumbai continued to create chances on the counter, with Chhteri coming close to his fourth goal on three different occasions, the best being a rasping shot at the crossbar after Frederic Piquionne’s through ball.
NorthEast for their part made all three substitutions by the 64th minute, including taking off the ineffective Simao Sabrosa early in the second half. The visitors pushed and probed but with very little end product.
The Haitian combination of Norde and Franz Bertin stuck in the 86th minute to add sheen to the scoreline as a chipped corner from Norde found his compatriot unmarked. The defender made no mistake to head it past a static defence to make it 5-1.
In the end the night belonged to Indian talisman Sunil Chhetri who now heads the goalscorers’ chart alongside Chennaiyin’s Stiven Mendoza with six goals for the season.
After a winless streak of three games, Mumbai have a hat-trick of wins — after a hat-trick from their star forward.