Churchill Brothers crowned I-League champions
The 'Goan Supremacy' in Indian football continued as Churchill Brothers 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, Churchill 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.
Image: Churchill Brothers players celebrate after winning I League title
Photographs: AIFF media
Chhetri scored the equaliser for Churchill
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 relegation 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.
Image: Churchill Brothers celebrate after winning the I-League
Photographs: AIFF media