MATCH REPORT: Manchester Central vs Leigh Athletic

Lamin Baldeh netted a remarkable five goals as Manchester Central stormed to a season-highest 8-0 win over Leigh Athletic at Ten Acres.

After an early penalty miss, Central regrouped and scored three unanswered goals, two courtesy of Baldeh and one from Oumar Kande, to go into half time in a commanding position.

The second half saw much of the same, with Baldeh and Kande both adding to their goal tallies as well as Marcello Arhin bagging himself a goal, as Central made it nine unbeaten in the league in emphatic manner.

Central started the match at a blistering pace and within the first fifteen minutes had won a penalty. Kande played in Mauro Mendes, who was shoved from the ball by the Leigh defence, with referee Stephen Bottom pointing to the spot.

Baldeh stepped up to take the spot kick but fired his effort straight down the middle, allowing the Leigh goalkeeper to make a save.

Leigh were given a glorious opportunity to capitalise soon after but headed over from an unmarked position in the box.

Central didn’t allow their heads to drop, however, and were soon causing problems for the Leigh defence again when a dangerous Luke Monaghan free kick was flicked on by top goalscorer Cory Knight, but his effort bounced just wide of the post.

The home side kept on the pressure, and in the 25th minute, the breakthrough came for Central.

Mendes drove out from midfield and played the ball into Baldeh, whose cut back caught out the sliding Leigh defenders and saw him clipped as he steadied to shoot, giving referee Bottom no option but to award another penalty.

Despite the earlier miss, Baldeh stepped up again to take the penalty and made no mistakes this time, burying the spot kick in the top corner. That was Baldeh’s third goal of the season, but he far from done in the game yet.

Central very nearly found themselves two to the good straight after, when Kande broke into the box, rounded the keeper and played a ball back across the box. Behind most of the players, it fell to Elvis Amoakwa for a strike from the edge of the box but the Leigh keeper recovered well to save with his legs.

A heavy challenge on Amoakwa after 35 minutes gave Central a free kick around the halfway line and after Baldeh and Mendes combined to open up space out wide for a cross, Knight flicked the ball on towards goal.

Kande reacted quickest and lifted the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper and into the far corner to double Central’s lead and give Kande his first goal of the season.

Central added a third in stoppage time at the end of the first half when the ball came to Baldeh on the edge of the box and, after twisting and turning to make space, he struck a stunning effort into the bottom corner.

After the half time interval, it was much of the same for Central, who were in complete control of proceedings. Aside from an occasional potshot from Leigh, all of the attacking play was going in the home side’s favour.

On the hour mark, it was four to Central when Kande took a high ball down brilliantly on his chest and lashed an goal-bound effort past the goalkeeper, taking a slight deflection on its way through.

Two minutes later Central added another when Mendes nipped in to win possession back after a heavy first touch from Leigh’s midfield, playing Baldeh through. Baldeh drove forward, twisted and turned once again to open up space for his shot, and confidently dispatched Central’s fifth and completing his hat-trick.

Central goalkeeper Jordan Hadlow had been a relative spectator in the match but in the 73rd minute turned assist-provider when his long ball forward was raced onto by Arhin and buried past the Leigh goalkeeper.

That made it 6-0 to Central, and saw a rare assist for Central’s shot-stopper – who is likely more accustomed to winning plaudits for preventing goals, rather than creating them.

Mendes then broke down the wing two minutes later and, after beating his man confidently, played a ball back across goal for Baldeh to slot home for his fourth of the match.

Baldeh completed the rout for Central in the 81st minute when he combined with Mendes once more. Mendes flicked the ball into his path with a clever backheel and the onrushing midfielder drilled his effort low into the back of the net.

Leigh pushed for a consolation late on but Hadlow remained sharp and saved the visitors’ free kick attempt, ensuring he kept his clean sheet.

Baldeh was nearly gifted a sixth when a moment of madness from the Leigh goalkeeper saw him flick the ball over his head and into the path of the Central man, but he couldn’t find the finish.

Full time followed almost immediately after, as Central recorded their biggest win of the season and find themselves unbeaten in nine league games, and 11 in all competitions.

Central have also managed a remarkable 17 goals in their last two fixtures, conceding just two in reply.

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