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Chetri hat-trick sinks NorthEast United FC

Sunil Chetri, the costliest Indian buy for Mumbai City FC at Rs 1.20 crore, scored a hat-trick and almost got a fourth in the home side’s 5-1 victory over NorthEast United FC here on Wednesday.

Sony Norde tapped in goal number four for the men in blue, and captain Frantz Bertin nodded in number five. The winner moved to second place in the league table, with 10 points from six games and a superior goal difference than FC Goa.

Nicolas Anelka, who didn’t need to step on to the D.Y. Patil stadium turf, would have loved to be in Chetri’s boots for MCFC’s second goal. Haitian Norde, who gained space and the ball on the left, waited for his teammates to move into position. Subhash Singh reached the right post and headed the floater goalwards where Chetri finished off with a stylish leap and first-time tap-in. Two penalty conversions completed a happy day at work for him.

The visitors started with Velez and Simao in the playing squad, the latter wearing the captain’s armband. The home team wore black armbands to express solidarity with teammate Selim Benachour, who flew home after losing his father.

The sombre mood in the MCFC dugout pre-match was not reflected on the pitch. Anelka brought back striker Subhash Singh at the expense of playmaker Gabriel Fernandes. Piquionne earned the home side a free-kick with a twist past two defenders followed by a tumble. Norde’s effort came back off the wall, giving goalkeeper T.P. Rehenesh time to settle down.

In the 25th minute Chetri latched on to a faulty pass from the opponent and tapped the ball diagonally for Subash. Carlos Lopez, rushing to cover the first angle, leaped but the ball struck his hand and Chetri duly converted the penalty.

NEUFC needed only four minutes to draw level. MCFC custodian Subrata Paul was unsighted by players jostling in front of him as Boithang Haokip shaped to take a free-kick. The latter curled the ball in low into the net beyond the surprised goalkeeper.

At the other end, Rehenesh looked on as Norde’s kick came back off the post into play; defender Pavel Cmovs was in position, but headed over.

Chetri scored his third of the match with another penalty kick conversion. The award came MCFC’s way after his overhead kick struck Andre Bikey-Amougou’s hand. Norde moved from support to lead role in MCFC’s fourth goal, picking up a pass from Juan Aguilera, going on to outwit Rehenesh with a dummy kick.

NEUFC coach Cesar Farias responded by bringing in fresh legs, Sanju Pradhan replacing goal-scorer Haokip, but MCFC pulled off another rehearsed move. Norde floated the ball off a corner kick for fellow Haitian Bertin to power a header into the net. The visitors remain in seventh place after six games, beaten by a slippery Indian, equipped with an agile mind and deadly feet.

THE SCORES: Mumbai City FC 5 (Sunil Chetri 25, 40, 47 hat-trick, Sony Norde 51, Frantz Bertin 86) bt North East United FC 1 (Boithang Haokip 29).

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