IN A THRILLING finish, Kingfisher East Bengal won 3-2 against Churchill Brothers when they hosted the Goan outfit in the Hero I-League 2017/18 at the Vidyasagar Krirangan (Barasat Stadium) on Saturday (December 16, 2017).
Peter Omoduemuke broke the deadlock in the 14th minute but Laldanmawia Ralte was quick to make matters even for the hosts two minutes later. Willis Plaza ended his goalless run of games with a brace (45'+2', 90'+7') on either halves’ injury time with Nicholas Fernandes’ 59th-minute equalizer sandwiched in between.
While Khalid Jamil retained the same starting lineup which thrashed Shillong Lajong 5-1 last weekend, Alfred Fernandes’ side was buoyed by the inclusion of Kalu Ogba. The 2009 league winner rejoined the club after seven years and slotted right into the centre of the park of the team still looking for their first win of the season.
It was the visitors who drew first blood and that too against the run of play. Nicholas Fernandes’ cross into the box towards Uttam Rai was intercepted and brought down by Arnab Mondal. The loose ball, in turn, was laid down by Israil Gurung for Peter Omoduemuke who made a sharp run in towards the box. The Nigerian’s first-time shot went into the top right corner of the net as Churchill Brothers had scored their first goal of the season!
That joy was shortlived as Katsumi Yusa started a counter-attack, feeding the ball to Willis Plaza who swivelled to find Laldanmawia Ralte beating his marker. The former Aizawl FC man equalised within a minute and few seconds, bringing up his third goal of the season.
Kingfisher East Bengal remained the dominant side throughout the first half and that was reflected well as they walked into the half-time break a goal ahead, scored by Willis Plaza in the injury time.
The Trinidad and Tobago international was fed a dangerous cross from Katsumi Yusa from the left and despite Suraj Singh and Banpynkhrawnam Nongkhlaw marking him Plaza was able to get the header in, marking the end of his barren run in front of goal.
Just on the stroke of the hour mark, the Goan side found the equalizer through Nicholas Fernandes. The former Sporting Goa player ran in from the left side as Prakash Sarkar was beaten for pace. He then lobbed the ball into the net with a beautiful left-footer which silenced the home crowd.
That triggered the attacking substitutions of Mohammed Rafique and Charles De Souza into the Kingfisher East Bengal mix.
James Kithan kept Churchill on the hunt by pulling off three brazen saves within a seven-minute period. All of Ralte, Plaza and Mahmoud Al Amna’s shots did not go past the Churchill custodian.
It was only in the last minute of added time that Katsumi Yusa’s flag kick was helped into the goal with Willis Plaza rising the tallest who silenced his critics by scoring the winner, sending the home crowd back home happy.
The Red and Golds now move into the third spot on the table with seven points and will play Chennai City away on 22nd December. Churchill Brothers are slated to play Chennai City three days prior and they are now rooted to the bottom of the table with no points yet.