Margao: Churchill Brothers ended Dempo SC`s dream run of seven straight victories as they overcame a second half challenge to edge past 2-1 in the eighth round I-League clash at the Nehru Stadium on Sunday.
Dempo`s coach Armando Colaco`s worst fears that his team would lose today`s game against Churchill after missing seven regular players, doning Indian colours in the ongoing SAFF Cup at Delhi, played the match under protest.
They came back strongly in the second half but missed at least three clear chances before finding the net in the third minute of the second half stoppage time.
Churchill, who also missed three regular players -- Steven Dias, Gourmangi Singh and Lalrindika -- played an attacking game and took the lead through a controversial goal in the 22nd minute when defender Antun Matthew Kovacic essayed a volley from inside the box off a flag kick taken by Roberto Silva from the right.
Rival keeper Laxmikant Kattimani dived and blocked the fierce shot on the goal line and collected the ball off the second attempt before the ball could cross the line.
But the referee Pratap Singh who was near the goal awarded the goal in favour of Churchill Brothers after assistant referee pointed the flag towards the centre line.
The goal turned the momentum in favour of Churchill as they held midfield superiority in the first half.
The only time Dempo came close to scoring was in the 30th minute when a Joe Rodrigues lob from a corner kick saw defender Rowilson Rodrigues attempt hit the bar.
Churchill increased their tally in the stoppage time of the first half.
Henri Arnaud Autchouet, who had missed an open chance earlier, made amends when his shot from inside the box off a pass from Lenny Rodrigues deflected defender Valeriano Rebello`s leg and caught keeper Kattimani off guard to find the net.
Dempo were a different team altogether after the break as they showed lot of urgency in their attack, probed more often into the rival half, and created several goal scoring opportunities. But their striker Koko Sakibo fumbled in front of an open goal twice to shoot the ball out despite having the goalkeeper at his mercy.
With no goal coming, Dempo coach introduce Romeo Fernandes in place of Brian Mascarenhas and he nearly scored when his attempt from the top of the box was saved by rival keeper Felix D`Souza.
Dempo kept on pressuring the rival citadel with a series of moves and their efforts finally got the reward in the 3rd minute of the stoppage time when substitute Selwyn Fernandes headed in off a cross from the left by Romeo Fernandes.
Dempo, who suffered their first defeat, remained at the top with 21 points from eight matches, while Churchill moved to second place with 17 points replacing Mohun Bagan, who are one point behind them.
Dempo coach Armando Colaco was happy with the result.
"Inspite of missing seven players our boys played well especially in the second half but missed handful of chances before losing 2-1.
"Churchill`s first goal was controversial as TV replays showed that the ball did not cross the line. I will not complain with the match comissioner but take it in our stride," Colaco said.
Churchill Brothers coach Manuel Gomes was delighted with the win.
"They are a stong side and beating them after winning seven games at a trot is a big achievement. They played really well inspite of missing seven players which shows their strong bench strength. I am happy. It is a good result for us," Gomes said.