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I-League 2018-19: Pedro Manzi & Nestor Gordillo key to Chennai City's title win

02:49 GMT 10/03/2019
Pedro Manzi Chennai City
Chennai City FC's superior foreign contingent behind maiden silverware...

More often than not the side with the best foreign contingent goes on to win the I-League. And statistics prove that the current I-League champions are no exception. 

Chennai City FC have scored 48 goals this season and 40 of them have been scored by their Spanish contingent with Pedro Manzi topping the list with 21 strikes to his name. 

Chennai are often praised for their style and aesthetics as they neatly moved the ball around with confidence and alacrity. But it would not have been possible for Akbar Nawas to implement this style if he did not have the likes of Nestor Gordillo and Sandro Rodriguez in his ranks. 

In Gordillo and Rodriguez, Nawas had two players who were comfortable with the ball, had the vision to break through the tightest of defence and were equally adept in finding the net. They had the ability to play in a variety of positions and were often seen shuffling flanks to keep the opponent guessing. 

Sandro would operate from a deeper position and would initiate most attacking build-ups after Roberto Eslava did his part of playing out from the back. The midfielder decision-making was exemplary. Gordillo had a telepathic connection with Pedro Manzi with his defence-splitting passes helping the latter bulge his goalscoring tally. With 44 key passes, Gordillo has been in a league of his own.

Sandro, GOrdillo and Manzi had a good understanding among each other and their movements often reflected that on the pitch. The trio showed monumental patience, understanding and skill over the course of the season.

Sandro's ability to score from set-pieces is an added bonus. The 28-year-old has been instrumental in breaking deadlocks and gritty defences with his accurate free-kicks. Against Indian Arrows, the Southerners were held back for almost three-quarters of the match until the former Tenerife player scored the opener from a dead-ball situation. 

If Sandro and Gordillo were pulling the strings in midfield, it was club skipper Manzi who led the attack from the front. Manzi started his campaign with a hat-trick against Indian Arrows in the very first match and went from strength to strength with each passing match. He was exceptional as a centre forward and displayed a plethora of skills in his armory. 

Apart from scoring goals, he has also held the ball pretty well and engaged defenders to create space for his teammates. His magnificent long ranger against Aizawl turned out to be the difference between the two sides, his equalizer against East bengal proved to be vital in securing the three points whereas it was another hat-trick that against Gokulam that saved the blushes for Nawas in a closely contested match. 

It remains to be seen whether Chennai City can hold on to these players for another season as the cash-rich outfits would definitely come for them with lofty promises and fatter pay cheques.