Ndubuisi Opara rose from the bench to score a startling hat-trick as Churchill Brothers defeated Chirag United Kerala 4-0 in a 23rd round I-League match at the Nehru Stadium, Fatorda, Goa, on Wednesday.
Chirag was the dominant side in the first session but unable to score despite having at least three chances.
In the second session, however, it was Churchill Brothers who took control of the proceedings, with Opara scoring a hat-trick.
Steven Dias scored the other goal.
The win enabled Churchill Brothers take their points tally to 41 and jump to the second rung, ahead of East Bengal, who also have the same number of points but Churchill have a better head to head result. Chirag are stuck on 17 points and are staring at relegation.
The first session saw Chirag United create at least three clear chances. But striker David Sunday made a mess of the first opportunity as early as the fifth minute of play and then, in the next two chances, Churchill goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya came to his team's rescue.
Churchill were unstoppable in the second session and once Opara found the mark in the 52nd minute, the result was crystal clear.
The first goal resulted when Opara won a penalty after being tripped by defender Isaac Boakye. Opara himself converted from the spot.
The second goal was a result of some brilliant work by Henri Autchouet, who latched on to a defence-splitting ball from Beto and then laid it on the platter for Opara to simply tap into an open goal.
Opara completed his hat-trick in the 70th minute, showing his true class as he cut past two defenders and took a shot at goal which deflected off a defender and entered the net.
Dias made it 4-0 towards the fag end of the match when his long ranger sailed into the top corner of the net.