Kolkata, Feb 28 (IANS) Pedro Manzi’s brace — a long-range stunner and a header — helped Mohammedan SC pull off a miracle as they handed Real Kashmir their first defeat in the I-League season despite going down to 10 men at the VYBK Stadium on Sunday. The win helped Mohammedan SC book a top six spot in the league with 16 points from 10 matches.
After skipper Kingsley Eze was sent off in the first half, Pedro Manzi proved to be the trump card for Mohammedan. The Spaniard scored two goals in the space of five minutes in the second half to lead Mohammedan into the top half qualification.
Despite dominating possession for much of the first half, a listless performance in the attacking department let Mohammedan SC down in the first half. Even new signing Manzi could not work his magic in a half where Mohammedan SC had almost 80 per cent ball possession. They could only muster half-chances and Vanlalbiaa Chhangte proved to be a live-wire in the final third.
His shot in the 16th minute came agonisingly close to handing Mohammedan SC the lead after he was released onto goal by Pedro Manzi. However, Chhangte from a very tight angle, could only help it away from the goal.
Meanwhile, Real Kashmir sat deep and tried to attack through long balls for Lukman Adefemi and Mason Robertson up front. The Snow Leopards, boasting one of the best defensive records in the league, played as though they had shut-shop for any Mohammedan SC attack — committing bodies in front of the ball and comfortably keeping their opponents at bay.
Chhangte once again came close in the 25th minute after Rahman’s free-kick looped over the Real Kashmir defensive line and found an on-side Chhangte. The forward went for the spectacular in the form of a bicycle kick but failed to force the goalkeeper into conceding. However, one long ball from the Real Kashmir defence turned the game around in the 34th minute when Lukman Adefemi, straight onto the goal, was hacked down by Kingsley Eze. Eze was shown a straight red card as Mohammedan SC reduced to 10 men.
The best chance of the match fell to Pedro Manzi in the 70th minute. After Real Kashmir’s goalkeeper had made an uncanny save from a long shot, the ball fell to Manzi who was inches away from the goal. Despite having a clear shot at the goal, Manzi went for the spectacular and missed from close range.
But all it took for Manzi was a moment of pure genius to announce his return to the I-League. The forward saw the opposition goalkeeper off his line and shot from inside his own half to hand Mohammedans the lead in the 74th minute. In the 79th minute, Manzi headed home from close range after a cross from the right flank found him unmarked inside the box. With a two-goal advantage, Mohammedan SC committed bodies in defence and saw off the match.