Brazillian hitman Marcelo Pereira scored a brilliant hat-trick as Delhi Dynamos continued with their impressive form with a 5-1 walloping of FC Goa to put themselves in a strong position for a play-offs berth in the Indian Super League in New Delhi on Sunday.
Pereira struck in the 38th, 48th and 56th minutes to take his goal tally to eight, three more than his closest rivals for the Golden Boot, while Richard Gadze was on target in the 51st and 57th minutes as it rained goals for Delhi in their final home game of the league stage at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Delhi scored their last four goals of the match, all in the second half, in the space of nine minutes to the delight of the 18,000-odd spectators.
Interestingly, it was Goa, who were already out of reckoning for a play-offs berth before this match, scored first through Fulganco Cardozo in the 31st minute against the run of play but Delhi responded with overwhelming superiority to notch up their fifth win of the season.
Delhi are now at second spot with 20 points from 12 matches, behind already qualified Mumbai City FC (22 points from 13 matches). They play NorthEast United on November 30 and Mumbai City FC on December 3 in their last two matches, both away games.
The Gianluca Zambrotta-coached side thus remained the only team not to lose a match at home this season. They have won thrice and drawn four times this season at home. Today's comprehensive win against Goa added to their growing reputation as the strong title contenders.
For Goa, the last season runners-up finishers, it was the familiar disappointment as they slumped their eighth loss of the season. They remained at the bottom with 11 points from 13 matches. They have their final match against defending champions Chennaiyin FC at home on December 1.
Delhi dominated for most part of the match and they were attacking from the word go and were lurking around the Goa goal all the time.
However, a goal against the run of play by Cardozo just after the half-hour mark saw Goa take the lead, stunning the home crowd.
This did not shake the home team's confidence and they restored parity within seven minutes through Pereira. After the changeover, Delhi showed how strong their firepower was as they scored four goals in the space of nine minutes with another two from Pereira and an equal number from Gadze.
Goa surged ahead just after half an hour's play through Fulganco. A neat through pass from Reinaldo Oliveira saw Julio Cesar draw out defender Anas Edathodika and goalkeeper Sorem Porei. His attempt from a narrow angle saw the goalkeeper close it down but the rebound fell for Fulganco who tapped it inside an empty goal.
Delhi equalised within seven minutes from a well-taken free-kick. Florent Malouda chose to slide a ball through for Pereira on the left and the Brazilian striker made no mistake slamming the ball past Goa goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani.
In the second half, there was a complete transformation as Delhi scored four goals in nine minutes. Pereira started Delhi's goal spree in the 48th minute scoring from nowhere. He got a ball about 25 yards out, cut past Richarlyson who was marking him and then sent a rasping drive that beat Kattimani for the second time.
Richard Gadze scored his first of the night in the 51st minute after Pereira turned provider and the Brazilian himself completed his hat-trick in the 56th minute.
Marcos Tebar played a nice diagonal ball from Delhi's own half which saw Pereira take Goa defender Debabrata Roy for a ride on the right, cutting him inside and then leaving him rooted to the ground before hammering the ball inside the goal.
Gadze made it 5-1 in the 57th minute. It was Tebar again who provided a delightful overhead ball which Gadze controlled, then shunted out the challenge of Raju Gaekwad and scored his second goal of the night.