New Delhi: Churchill Brothers’ suffered only their second defeat in the I-League as Clifford Chukuwama started his reign as the Sporting Clube Goa coach in style with a 1-0 victory in a 15th round encounter at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Goa.
Sporting Clube De Goa started with a 4-4-2 formation with Nathaniel Amos and Junior Elijah upfront and didn’t have their third foreigner Luciano Sabrosa due to injury. Churchill Brothers had Rowilson Rodrigues partnering Gouramangi Singh at the back with Robert Lalthampuana and D.Raju as the wing backs.
The match started and the first worthwhile incident was the booking of Micky Fernandes as early as in the third minute on a tackle from behind on Felix Chimaokwu. The ‘Flaming Oranje’ had taken an early control of the proceedings and never allowed Churchill Brothers to see a lot of the ball.
It took just seven minutes for the second placed team who breakthrough the chalk like Churchill defence when Samananda Singh’s cross from the right to the far post was headed in by Chinta Chandrashekhar. It was Naoba Singh's failure to clear the cross which also allowed the Sporting right back to score.
A Micky Fernandes free-kick from 25 yards was punched out unsurely by Churchill’s Arindam Bhattacharya two minutes later.
Sporting’s confidence grew with each move and they looked the better side with their strikers doing some fine work. Amos and Junior combined with the latter’s shot towards the far post went out of play.
Churchill’s first attempt came off Kalu Nnanna’s long shot which was well collected by goalkeeper Felix D'Souza after skipper Odafa Okolie laid it for him.
Sporting’s winger Steven Fernandes was guilty of missing a sitter which would have doubled the lead for his side after some good work by Joseph Pereira.
Matthew Gonsalves entered the referee’s books for a bad challenge on Odafa Okolie.
Junior’s chip for Amos saw the Brazilian lay the ball for an onrushing Steven Fernandes whose shot went wide.
Just before the half time, Churchill Brothers upped the tempo first with Odafa Okolie taking a shot after creating some space for himself but to no avail.
Gouramangi Singh found Kalu who sent the ball to Felix which was returned back to the Churchill midfielder on the right. Kalu’s cross was intercepted by defender Felip Gomes just in time as there were two Churchill bodies lurking in the box.
Junior Elijah had the opportunity to finish off the first session on a high as his attempt to find the far post with the outside of his foot didn’t fetch anything.
Both teams started the second half a little slow and Churchill were kept in the game by an Arindam Bhattacharya double save. Out of nowhere with his back to goal, Junior turned and sent in a firm left footer which was kept out by the Churchill custodian. Joseph Pereira picked up the pieces and his attempt saw Arindam pull-off a one handed save.
Joseph Pereira was in the midst of action yet again as he sent Raju the wrong way before his left footer coming off the crossbar.
Churchill’s frustration was visible as Robert Lalthampuana received a yellow card for a foul on Junior Elijah. Zoran Djordjevic tried to change things a bit and brought on the pacy Bineesh Balan for Raju in the 68th minute.
Nothing much was created by either of the sides in this period. Sporting Clube De Goa intelligently wasted time by throwing as many bodies on the ground for treatment. Defender Samananda Singh was booked for time wasting while about to take a throw and would miss the next game for Sporting.
There was a clash of heads between Felix Chimaokwu and Samananda Singh while going for the same ball in the 84th minute. The Sporting right back was substituted with Francis Andrade making his way in.
The best chance Churchill had was when Odafa’s long ball was taken on a volley by an onrushing Bineesh Balan only to see Sporting custodian Felix D’Souza thwarting the effort.
Sporting could have hit a final nail in the coffin when Junior Elijah found Bibiano Fernandes in good space. Instead of going for the goal or laying it for a free Francis Andrade, Bibiano went for Junior which was effectively cleared in the end.
It was a good performance from Sporting Clube De Goa and deserved the three points. Churchill Brothers looked off-colour throughout and it wasn’t their day. They missed the opportunity to close the gap at the top with coach Zoran Djordjevic having a lot to think about.
Goalscorer Sporting: Chinta Chandrashekhar (7th min)