A sensational hat-trick on debut from Spanish striker Sergio Mendiguchia powered Neroca FC to a 3–2 victory over I-League newcomers Sreenidi Deccan at the Naihati Stadium in Kolkata on Monday. (More Football News)
Girik Khosla and David Castenada Munoz got on the score sheet for Sreenidi Deccan, but the odd goal fell Neroca FC's way to give the side from Manipur all three points in this clash.
After a scrappy start to the proceedings, Neroca FC were the first side to make headway in the contest as they broke the deadlock in the 15th minute through new signing Mendi.
As his fellow new Spanish recruit Juan Mera chipped in a free kick from a central position, Mendi came alive in the box as he brought down the ball with his chest and bundled it home from close range after Sreenidi goalkeeper Ubaid CK made the save at the first time of asking.
The Spanish duo of Mendi and Mera combined again from a set piece to devastating effect in the 22nd minute. Standing over a free kick from a wider position this time, set piece specialist Mera whipped in a fantastically shaped flat delivery into the box which was promptly nodded home by striker Mendi for his second goal of the game.
The goal sparked wild celebrations among the Neroca outfit which rejoiced the striker's brace.
Already two goals behind, Sreenidi Deccan were looking to avoid conceding further, as Neroca hunted for more goals.
In the 41st minute, Girik Khosla was on hand to reduce the arrears for Sreenidi Deccan. Sriram channelled a brilliant pass into the box for Phalguni Singh, who raced on to the ball to produce a fantastic square pass for teammate Khosla at the far post, who tapped the ball in with the goalkeeper taken out of the equation with the pass.
Sreenidi Deccan had a glorious chance right before the break to go into half time on level terms, but goalkeeper Shubham Dhas made a solid double save to keep Neroca's lead intact.
After the break, Mendi made it a dream debut in Indian football in the 49th minute, completing a fine hat-trick by scoring with his right foot, head and left foot respectively.
The Spanish striker doubled his side's advantage again with his best goal of the lot.
Goalkeeper Ubaid rushed out from his goal line hoping to clear the ball, but he was beaten to it by Mendi, who caught the keeper stranded in no man's land and lifted the ball over him from 20 yards out.
The enthralling match saw another twist in the tale in the 59th minute. Colombian striker David Castaneda Munoz announced his arrival into the I-League this time with a perfectly executed header.