Churchill scrape past Air India
Pune: Churchill Brothers secured full points from their 18th round encounter against Air India and placed themselves in a position to threaten Dempo SC in the race to the top in the I-League football championship.
Captain Roberto `Beto` Silva scored on second rebound following a free-kick in the 30th minute and that was enough for Churchill to hang on and win 1-0 at the Balewadi Sports Complex ground.
Churchill now have 33 points, one point behind East Bengal and seven off leaders Dempo, but they have a game in hand that could prove decisive towards the end of the league. While Air India stay at 24 points from 18 matches.
Both teams missed the services of their first choice strikers - Henry Antchouet and ND Opara for Churchill and Henry Ezeh and Takayuki Omi for Air India - but still the Goans showed they had good reserves.
Air India, nonetheless, found some cracks in Churchill defence and sneaked in, but the home team`s finishing was not up to the mark. Sandeep Sangha sent at least four wayward shots from the top of the box after he was handed a golden chance as early as in the ninth minute.
Churchill`s goal was set up when Balan took a freekick that landed behind the wall and on second rebound, Beto pounced on the chance and let the ball stroll into the post.
Air India replied with Lamine Tamba making a move with Manandeep Singh and Sandesh Gadkari taking the ball forward. But then, Sangha fired the ball way over the crossbar in the 36th minute.
On resumption, Air India showed some urgency to find an equaliser. But without Takayuki and Henry, they really struggled. Manandeep was a revelation as he created at least three chances in the second half but failed to get support upfront.
Man of the Match was awarded to Roberto Silva.