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Churchill rally to hold Mahindra
Mario Rodrigues | January 11, 2007 19:36 IST
Last Updated: January 11, 2007 19:40 IST
Gallant Churchill Brothers rallied strongly to share honours with fancied Mahindra United as the two teams settled to a grueling 1-1 draw in a second round match of the ONGC National Football League at the Cooperage in Mumbai on Thursday.
It was a setback of sorts for the red-and-black local outfit who were playing a home match. Both teams are on four points each, having won their opening rounds earlier, with the Goan family-run club managing to retain their pole position.
New Ghanaian striker Andrews Mensah found the net for the second match in succession to give Mahindras a 38th-minute lead. However, Churchill Brothers drew level through their hard running skipper, Odafe Okolie, in the 79th minute. The Nigerian striker incidentally has logged three goals in two matches to lead the scorer's table.
A jittery Mahindra defence almost conceded a goal in the second minute itself when stopper-back N P Pradeep, surprisingly voted man-of-the-match, let George Ekeh slip through. But the Nigerian striker placed his try wide of the post. Okolie then managed to squeeze in on another occasion but his shot found the side netting. In the second half he had his shot on target after bulldozing his way through from the left flank but Sandip Nandy was alert to the threat.
The Moroccan Karim Bencharifa-coached Goan side, comprising of mainly youthful North-East players, acquitted themselves creditably and could have given a better account of themselves but for the cabbage patch of a pitch, a disgrace to the Western India Football Association. The jeepmen lacked the fluidity of their opening encounter and their wing-play was below par, Stephen Pereira's crosses from the right going awry on more occasions than to where it was intended. Mahindra skipper Yusuf Yakubu too seemed reluctant to score against his former employers, spurning three-four chances that came his way.
The jeepmen opened the account when James Singh lobbed the ball into the danger area from the right flank. Mensah trapped the ball on his chest, took two defenders in his stride and coolly slotted the ball past Vinay Singh, a clinical finish. Churchill Brothers threw a third striker, D Raju into the fray in the second half and their constant pressure bore dividends, Okolie finding the target with a header off a Chitrasen Singh cross from the left flank.
Mahindras take on three-times champions Mohun Bagan at home on January 14 in their next match, while Churchill Brothers travel to Ludhiana to face JCT Mills on January 17.
In the other match, East Bengal romped to a 3-1 win over HAL in Bangalore
Ashim Biswas set the ball rolling with a 5th minute strike, with Bibiano Fernandes doubling the lead in the 25th minute. HAL pulled it back after half-time, when S Kuttimani scored three minutes into the second half. Izumi Arata hit the final nail in the coffin as he outsmarted the HAL defence to score in the 79th minute and complete a comprehensive win for the Kolkata giants