Table-toppers Churchill Brothers steered four points clear of second-placed TRAU FC after the Goan outfit steamed past Sudeva Delhi FC 2-0 at the Mohun Bagan Stadium in Kolkata today, January 25.
In a match largely dominated by Fernando Varela’s men, first-half strikes by Luka Majcen and Bryce Miranda proved enough as Churchill Brothers grabbed their third win of the season and put distance between themselves and the chasing pack on the I-League table.
In what was perhaps the best opportunity for Sudeva Delhi FC to stun the title contenders early on, Sairuatkima was given a free header after Kean Lewis found him with an accurate freekick in the 4th minute. The lanky defender, however, failed to even test the opposition goalkeeper.
Shaking off the nervous start, Churchill Brothers began dominating play and came close to taking the lead several times. In the 17th minute, Richard Costa played a through ball for Clayvin Zuniga, but the ball, a bit overhit, was saved by the goalkeeper who came out to collect.
Two minutes later though, Churchill Brothers took the lead in a quite extraordinary fashion. Off a corner kick, Zuniga held up play and used his physical prowess to shield the ball, before laying a pass for Luka Majcen who smashed the ball home, giving the Goan club a solitary goal lead.
Next, a classic counter-attack goal for the Red Machines gave them a two-goal advantage. In the 35th minute, Kean Lewis ran clear on the right flank and cut inside to release a curling effort that went out of bounds. Immediately after, Churchill Brothers cleverly used the right flank and Luka Majcen ran clear towards goal before releasing a pass for Bryce Miranda, who bundled the ball into the net.
Sudeva Delhi FC could have halved their deficit in the dying embers of the first half when Shaiborlang Kharpan’s thunderous header off a Mahesh Singh corner was saved heroically. Churchill Brothers led 2-0 as both teams went into the tunnel at half-time.
The side from the capital seemed spurred in the second half and two minutes into play, Kharpan had a half-chance to halve their deficit. The forward broke clear of the defensive line and chased a long ball towards goal. However, he tried to chip the opposition goalkeeper, who had come out to clear the danger, but placed his effort wide in the process.
Bazie Armand, who commanded the midfield and robbed possession off Sudeva Delhi time and again, tested his luck in the 64th minute when he shot from distance. His shot lacked power and was saved easily by the opposition goalkeeper. Nine minutes later, Bazie was once again given an opportunity when he was found by Luka Majcen, right outside the box. This time, as well, the midfielder dragged his shot wide of goal.
Despite the valiant efforts of Sudeva Delhi FC, Chenco Dorji’s team were held at bay for most parts of the second half. In the 81st minute, a well-timed tackle by Gursimrat Singh saw him deny a clear chance for Zuniga. In the end, the full-time result read 2-0 in favour of the league leaders.
With this win, Churchill Brothers go four points clear at the top of the I-League table. However, if NEROCA FC beat Gokulam Kerala FC later today, Churchill Brothers’ lead would be reduced to three points with NEROCA leaping over TRAU FC to get in second place.