Churchill Brothers win I-League title after 1-1 draw with Mohun Bagan
Vasco: The `Goan Supremacy` in Indian football continued as Churchill Brothers on Tuesday comfortably won their second I-League football title with a match to spare by playing out a 1-1 draw with Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan.
With 52 points from 25 games, the `Red Devils` of Indian football have ensured that they will walk home with a cool prize money Rs 7 million.
The power equation in Indian football has now decisively shifted to Goa from Kolkata which was once considered the `Mecca` of Indian football.
With Churchill`s triumph, in the last five editions of the national league, Churchill and Dempo have won twice while Salgaocar have had their hands on the silverware once.
The win also provided a second lease of life for veteran coach Subhash Bhowmick, who has now got the rare distinction of winning the I-League while being at the helm of two different sides.
Bhowmick has earlier won the two National League titles with East Bengal back in 2002-03, 03-04. The controversial coach has gone through a rough time in his career during end part of the last decade and his career today got a second wind.
Churchill, who needed a draw to overcome Pune FC challenge for the title given their better head-to-head record, got a rude shock when C S Sabeeth of Bagan scored from a solo effort in the 26th minute.
But India captain Sunil Chhetri restored parity in the second half to ensure that the supporters who gathered at the Tilak Maidan were able to start celebrations.
Bagan who made Churchill Brothers to work had to earn a point now have 26 points from 25 matches and have done really well to save relegations after being docked all points due to crowd trouble during a December derby.
Churchill Brothers, who last won in 2008-09, pressed hard for an early goal but were frustrated by the visitors who also looked enterprising in their attack.
Bagan looked more composed as there was no pressure on them to win succeeded in taking the lead in the 26th minute when C S Sabeeth who picked the ball on the top of the box ran solo and on entering the box cut past defender Satish Singh before uncorking a left-footer past keeper Sandip Nandy into the net to have the home side fans dumb folded.
Churchill Brothers, who remained undefeated in their last five outings were looking to be more creative in the midfield with the return of Beto.
But that was not to be as they committed lot of stay passes which helped the rival defence to dispossess them more effectively as a result they could not have a clear look at the rival goal in the first half.
Changing over, Bagan had a good chance to increase the lead. Following a short corner, Churchill Brothers keeper Sandip Nandy managed to block the ball...It was a weak shot from the left, the ball fell to Syed Nabi who shot out from inside the box in the 54th minute.
Churchill retaliated and had a clear chance to find the equaliser four minutes later but Sunil Chhetri saw his left footer going wide off the target.
Churchill pressed hard to find the equaliser and earned a free kick on the top of the box after Beto was brought down by the defender. Beto who himself took the free kick saw his shot tipped over by rival keeper Shilton Paul over the bar.
Unable to find the equaliser, Churchill’s coach Mariano Dias introduced Balal Arezou who after good work on the left sent a cross into the box for Lenny Rodriguez who headed the ball towards the goal but defender Manish Maithani did well to head the ball out of danger on the goal line.
Churchill who showed lot of urgency in the attack finally found the equaliser when Sunil Chhetri rose above his marker to head the ball into the net off a cross from Bineesh Balan on the right in the 72nd minute to send the Churchill fans into rapture.