Late strikes from Dipanda Dicka, Thoiba Singh and Sergio Barboza helped host Punjab FC beat defending champion Chennai City FC 3-1 in a thrilling I-League encounter at the Guru Nanak Stadium here on Tuesday.
Punjab head coach Yan Law made a host of changes to the side that drew 1-1 at home against East Bengal. Anwar Ali returned to the line-up after having served his one-match suspension. Dicka started on the bench while Jason Hart returned to the eleven. Chennai City gaffer Akbar Nawas fielded a conventional 4-3-3.
He made only one change to the CCFC 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 which came close to taking the lead.
A deflected Cavin Lobo attempt on goal almost wrong-footed Chennai City goalkeeper Nauzet Santana but the Spaniard did well to recover and make the save. The home side was threatening when having possession while the visitor displayed a calmer approach by playing out from the back.
Despite creating a few chances, both sides failed to disturb the scoreboard in the first half. Dicka was introduced in the final period, having replaced Girik Mahesh Khosla in the 56th minute. The substitution paid dividends as Dicka leapt highest to meet a corner from Sanju Pradhan 12 minutes from time.
The away side, despite falling behind, didn’t give up the chase. In the 85th minute, a delivery into the box was met by Manzi, who made no mistake and levelled 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 to restore his side’s lead. The icing on the cake came in the first minute of stoppage time. With four minutes added on, Makan Winkle Chote found himself in some space on the right flank. He delivered a good ball inside the box and the cross was met spectacularly by Barboza whose diving header made it 3-1 for the host.