Guwahati: Seiminlen Doungel turned the tables on Chennaiyin FC inflicting a 3-1 defeat on the visitors with a wonderful hat-trick that was the first ever for a NorthEast United player and also the very first Indian to do so this season.
It was 3-0 to Chennaiyin FC when the teams met earlier in the campaign but Doungel’s goals in the 42nd, 46th and 68th minutes ensured NorthEast United returned the favour. The win though kept them ninth with 10 points from the same number of matches, but still in the contention for a maiden Play-offs berth.
Chennaiyin meanwhile remained second with just 21 points from 11 matches.
The ‘Highlanders’ prior to this match however had scored just four goals in the nine matches they had played and looked on course for yet another match without finding the net. There was urgency but no direction to the home team’s attack and most moves fizzled out before reaching the danger zone.
Chennaiyin FC too were not in their elements, although there were a couple of half-chances. But they had started well with Nelson threatening as ever in the wings. It was the home side however who found an early chance to score, when Halicharan Narzary found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Karanjit Singh but was too lazy to fire, before Sereno robbed him off the ball.
Minutes later Calderon came close on the other side, shooting wide from a narrow angle. Both sides fluffed enough chances as the half seemed to draw to an end goalless, before Doungel lighted it up with his poaching instincts.
A long ball from the left was controlled well by Cezario who weaved his way past two markers before unleashing a shot that was just half saved by custodian Karanjit Singh and Doungel did well to curl in the rebound with his left foot.
But if Chennaiyin had any hopes of come back, it was profusely crushed 19 seconds into the second-half as Doungel raced again finding his second for the night. A through ball from Cesaro saw the 23 year-old score past a rushing Karanjit to make it 2-0 for the home side.
The goal not just made the visitors bite the dust but also forced drastic tactical changes which involved captain and centre-back Henrique Sereno making way for attacking midfielder Raphael Augusto and Chennaiyin in their quest to fight their way back soon conceded a third in the 68th minute, as a result of putting more men up-front.
Narzary’s low-square pass from the left was drilled in by Doungel again, who made it all the more special with a clever finish for his third of the night. It was not just his first ever hat-trick in the Indian Super League, but he also became the country’s first ever hat-trick scorer this season.
Stunned and facing their first defeat after five unbeaten games, Chennaiyin though saw a glimmer of hope when Anirudh Thapa pulled a goal back in the 79th minute with a brilliant volley but NorthEast held on for the final 10 minutes to win what was their only third in this edition.