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Chennaiyin’s Mendonza hat-trick stuns Kerala

Stiven Mendoza scored his second hat-trick in the second edition of Hero Indian Super League (ISL) football tournament as Chennaiyin FC kept their semi-final hopes alive with a 4-1 blast of Kerala Blasters here on Saturday.

Dhanachandra Singh gave Chennaiyin FC an early lead in the third minute and then Mendoza took over with yet another hat-trick with goals in the 16th, 79th and 81st minutes. Antonio German scored the only goal of the match for Kerala Blasters in the 90th minute.

The win keeps Chennaiyin alive in the tournament with 13 points from 11 matches. They have now moved to the sixth spot displacing Mumbai City FC but still have a battle on their hands in the remaining three matches. Significantly, they are only three points behind fourth-placed NorthEast United FC.

Kerala are at the bottom of the table with 11 points and with Saturday’s defeat there campaign is as good as over now.

The hero of the match was Mendoza who scored his second hat-trick and took his goal tally in the league to nine, three ahead of second-placed Sunil Chhetri of Mumbai.

Chennaiyin coach Marco Materazzi rejigged his side with five changes and that seemed to work as the hosts got the lead in the third minute itself. Thoi Singh’s cross from the right was cleared hastily by Rahul Bheke but his header was volleyed by Dhanachandra from inside the box.

(Chennaiyin FC Mendoza (left) and Sandesh Jhingan Kerala Blasters in action during the Indian Super League in Chennai on Saturday Photo. M. Moorthy)

Chennaiyin doubled their lead in the 16th minute through Mendoza, who was benched for the last game against Atletico de Kolkata, which they lost.

Mendoza proved that he is still among the best strikers in the competition with a classic forward’s goal. A long ball punted forward was nicely trapped by the Colombian striker, who beat his marker and then curled it past the Kerala goalkeeper.

With a 2-0 advantage at the break, Chennaiyin were hardly going to allow this advantage to slip out of their hands. They bottled the defensive doors and then started to catch Kerala Blasters on the counter.

It was not until the 79th minute that Chennaiyin made it 3-0 with Mendoza getting his second goal. The Colombian striker combined effectively with Thoi on the edge of the box and then finished with a shot that deflected off Bruno Perone and settled into the net.

Mendoza completed his hat-trick a minute later when he broke through the ranks and pounced on a quickly taken free-kick to flick the ball past Kerala goalkeeper Stephen Bywater.

German pulled a goal back in the last minute of play but that was little consolation for a team that is now at the bottom of the table.

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