Coimbatore, Mar 2: Cheni City FC registered a stunning 2-1 win over table-toppers Minerva Punjab FC to blow the I-League title race wide open here on Friday.
Soosairaj opened the scoring for Cheni in the fifth minute before Chencho Gyeltshen restored parity in the 26th minute.
Cheni City FC's new recruit Aleksander Rakic beat the offside trap on the hour-mark to get the lead once again which eventually, proved the difference between the two teams.
Cheni City thus leapfrogged Churchill Brothers FC with 19 points from 18 matches.
Minerva Punjab FC are still leading the race with 32 points from 17 matches but East Bengal, Neroca FC and Mohun Bagan are still very much alive in the title hunt.
Cheni City stunned Minerva Punjab five minutes into the match with a hammer-blow from skipper Soosairaj.
Edwin Vanspaul's cross from the right fell to the Indian midfielder inside the box and although his initial shot towards goal was kept out by Minerva goalkeeper Kiran Limbu, he made no mistake on his second try to give the home side an unexpected lead.
The early goal was the wake-up alarm that the Minerva players needed. Chencho Gyeltshen started getting involved in the game immediately.
In the 15th minute, the Bhutan intertiol nutmegged two Cheni defenders before surging into the box. But Kabir was alert to rush off his line and collect the ball before the Bhutanese could get a shot away.
In the 22nd minute, Kabir came up with a brilliant diving save to his right to keep out a curling free-kick effort by William Opoku that looked destined to hit the net. The much-anticipated equaliser came four minutes later when Amandeep Singh tested the Cheni backline with a long ball into the box for Chencho.
The 'Bhutanese Roldo' brought the ball down with his feet before sending a powerful effort into the net to make it 1-1.
Cheni City could have dampened Minerva's hopes a minute later when Sebastian's through-ball reached Aleksander Rakic's feet but the forward placed his shot inches wide of Limbu's goal.
Soosairaj's curling free-kick was punched out by Kiran at the stroke of half-time but the scorer of the opening goal soon turned provider at the hour-mark to help Cheni City regain their lead.
The Indian midfielder's through-ball found Rakic inside the box and the foreign forward made amends for his earlier miss by slotting the ball home.
A desperate Minerva piled up the pressure in the dying stages of the match but were not able to break open a sturdy Cheni City backline who did just enough to register a full-time result that threw the title race wide open. IANS