Churchill win maiden Federation Cup

Courtesy: PTI
Languishing at the bottom of the heap in the ongoing I-League, Churchill Brothers showed remarkable resilience as they outclassed a formidable Sporting Clube de Goa 3-1 to win their maiden Federation Cup title at the floodlit Nehru Stadium.

For the winners Balwant Singh (21st minute), Alesh Sawant (47th) and tournament’s most consistent player Abdel Hamid Shabana (65th minute) found the back of the net while Victorino Fernandes pulled one back for Clube in the 67th minute.

In a battle between Goan giants, Clube, who are currently placed second in the 13-team table were favourites on paper but the ‘Red Devils’ of Indian football have shocked one and all with some dominating performances including their upset win over Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan in the semi-final.

Balwant broke the deadlock in the 21st minute when he collected a ball from Denzil Franco and with a deft feint sidestepped Joyner Lourenco before slotting it past Clibe custodian Ravi Kumar. This was Balwant’s fourth goal in the tournament and his performance will surely attract attention of national coach Wim Koevermans.

Churchill’s second goal came immediately after the break as an unmarked Sawant had all the time in world to tap in an Anthony Wolfe centre after the Sporting defence failed to react and clear it in time.

Shabana, who till then, was playing the perfect foil to Lenny Rodrigues, made it 3-0 in the 65th minute. The former collected a Thangjam Singh assist and placed it past Ravi Kumar.

Victorino Fernandes did pull one back for Sporting in the 67th minute when he tapped in Kalu’s through pass before Churchill Goalkeeper Lalit Thapa could intercept it. But it didn’t change the fortune of the match. Earlier, no team was willing to the risk early and preferred to play it safe. Though the ball travelled from one box to the other, none were able to penetrate.

It was not till the 16th minute before any attack looked threatening until Churchill’s Wolfe sped down the left flank to sneak into the rival box only to be thwarted by a composed Gonzalo Neila.

Sporting on the other hand, preferred to attack down the right, Bevan d’Mello trying to unsettle their Goan neighbours with his speed.

Post Balwant’s goal, it could have been disastrous for Clube had not an alert Ravi Kumar cleared the danger after Neila had failed to intercept a long ball. Add to that, Wolfe losing his balance, Sporting were lucky indeed.

Churchill, by then, had taken over the reins of the match. Shabana, in an effort to blast it in, hit the post. He collected the ‘second-ball’ following a Thangnam corner-kick and even as Ravi Kumar flung himself full, it beat his hands and bounced back off the post as Churchill held onto their one-goal lead at the interval.

In the second half, Churchill Goalkeeper Lalit Thapa’s reflexes came to his team’s rescue when he saved a blinder – a Ogba Kalu placement from inside the 6-yard box. It happened in the 48th minute.

Churchill could have added added more to their tally but it wasn’t destined. First, Joyner cleared Shabana’s placement as it was addressed to the net and then, in the next minute (85th), Wolfe failed to address it into an open net.


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