A very well taken hat-trick from winger Seiminlen Doungel (42', 46' 68') helped NorthEaste United stun high-flying Chennaiyin FC by 3-1 in the Indian Super League (ISL) clash at Guwahati on Friday.
Avram Grant made one change to the NorthEast United side which lost to ATK with Doungel returning to the side after tying the knot. He took the place of Malemngamba Meitiei who was relegated to the bench. Danilo Lopes Cezario continued to lead the line for the Highlanders with Marcinho playing behind him.
John Gregory remained suspended for Chennaiyin who made one last-minute change from the side that won against FC Pune City. Anirudh Thapa replaced Bikramjit Singh after the latter suffered an injury in the warm-up. Jeje Lalpekhua continued to lead the attack with Gregory Nelson, Rene Milehic and Thoi Singh behind him.
It was the visitors who started the match on the brighter note with Nelson looking dangerous on the wings. Within the opening few minutes, he delivered a wicked ball across the box which beat all three Chennaiyin attackers.
However, it was the home side which conjured up the first clear-cut chance of the night. After a clever dummy from Doungel, Rowllin Borges’ delightful through ball found Marcinho who had options to his either side and chose to slot it for Halicharan Narzary on the left.
With just the goalkeeper to beat, Nazrazy made a hash of the golden chance allowing the last defender to rob him off the ball.
The visitors upped the ante once again and came close towards the half-hour mark when an overlapping Inigo Calderon found some space to take a shot at goal but his effort was some way off target.
Chennaiyin failed to make their early threat count and paid the price ultimately as Doungel sent NorthEast ahead minutes before the half-time whistle. A hopeful long ball down the left was controlled well by Cezario who beat two men with his take-down before unleashing a shot which was saved by custodian Karanjit Singh. Doungel was on hand to curl in the rebound into the back of the net with his left foot.
If Chennaiyin were planning to mount a second-half challenge, they were dealt a killer blow straight after the restart. Cezario found himself in acres of space after another long-ball from Jose Gonvcalves and delivered a defence-splitting through ball to Doungel who made a brilliant run behind the back-four. The 23-year-old registered his second goal of the night with a well placed low shot which beat a diving Karanjit.
Going two behind just 17 seconds into the second period forced Chennaiyin’s hands who threw on attacker Raphael Augusto for defender Henrique Serano in a tactical shift. In their quest to get themselves back into the game, the visitors left the door ajar at the back and the Doungel all but sealed the tie with his hat-trick in the 68th minute. Narzary delivered a low cross from the left flank to which Doungel appiled a sweet side-footed finish leaving a despairing Karanjit no chance.
The visitors earned a glimmer of hope in the 79th minute when Anirudh Thapa banged in a volley to beat TP Rehenesh after a some ping-pong inside the penalty box. Chennaiyin were camped inside the home side's half for the entirety of the last 10 minutes but the NorthEast defence stuck through its task amidst some nervous moments.
In the end, Grant's men consigned Chennaiyin to only their third defeat of the season as they kept their own slim hopes for a top-four finish alive.