Odafe `trick floors Churchill, move to second place

Margao: Odafe Okolie scored a hat-trick as Mohun Bagan came from behind to beat Churcbill Brothers 3-2 and move to the second place after 14 rounds of the I-League, football tournament on Sunday.

Bagan, who beat Churchill Brothers 2-1 in the first leg, started with lone striker Odafe and strengthened their defence with five men, with Subhasish Roy Chowdhury playing as a libero.

Churchill knew that today`s win is important to keep themselves in fray for the title race. Expectedly, the home team started well and surprised the Bagan defence, who were just settling down with an early goal in the fourth minute.

Steven Dias worked his way on the right and relayed the ball to Mohammed Rafi, who beat defender Anwar with a body feint and squared the ball to unmark Lalrindika Ralte inside the box, who essayed a right footer that found the roof of the net.

Taken aback with the early goal, Bagan launched an attack and nearly succeeded in finding the equaliser two minutes later. But Jewel Raja, who picked up Odafe long ball on the right, took a rasping shot on the run, but was unlucky to see his shot hit the post.

Bagan, who quickly settled down, looked more dominant, as they tried to meet Odafe with long ball and the willy striker responded well, when he chested a cross from Syed Nabi and dispatched the ball into the net, beating Arindam Bhattacharya to his left to level the scoreline at half time.

Bagan made their first change in the second half, bringing in Jose Barreto Ramires in place of Jewel Raja and their attack looked sharper with Baretto, nearly finding the net but his chip off a pass from Subhasish Roy Chowdhury was saved by rival custodian Arindam.

Gouramangi Moirangthem did well to keep a strict watch on Odafe, but the striker got the better of Gouramangi in the 73rd minute and essayed a shot that bounced in front of Arindam and crashed into the net.

Five minutes later, Bagan won a penalty, when Baretto was brought down by Denzil Franco inside the box and Odafe converted the spot-kick, beating the keeper to his right to score his hat-trick.

Churchill made three quick changes, bringing in Henri Arnaud, Bineesh Balan and Naveen Sudhakaran in place of Steven Dias, Lalrindika Ralte and Antun Matthew and went all out.

The home team managed to reduce the margin in the 81st minute when substitute Henri Arnaud found the net off a pass from Bineesh Balan.

The goal spurred Churchill, who were all over the rival goal in the last quarter of the match in search of the equaliser, but Henri, Opora and Binesh failed to find the net.

Bagan, who took their tally to 27 points from today`s win, moved to second place behind Dempo, who are at the top with 30 points.

Churchill, who played one match less than Bagan, are at the third place with 26 points from 13 matches.


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