Churchill Brothers continued their resurgence in the 2017-18 Hero I-League as they trumped defending champions Aizawl FC, who were down to ten men in the end by a solitary goal at the Tilak Maidan Ground in Vasco on Tuesday (February 6, 2018).
Koffi Mechac’s strike in the 21st minute of the game was enough for the Red Machines to register their first clean sheet of the season and the fifth win in their last six games.
Alfred Fernandes did not disturb his winning combination too much as he only made the solitary change from their win over Minerva Punjab. Richard Costa made way for Suraj Singh as the defender was played in a midfield role.
Paulo Menezes was visibly shaken after going three weeks without a win as he made four alterations with skipper Alfred Jaryan returning from suspension.
The game had a lively start as Nicholas Fernandes missed putting the ball into the far side of the net with his first-time header from a cross provided by Harshad Naik.
Aizawl FC had a goal disallowed as early as in the fifth minute. Andrei Ionescu’s flag-kick was received by Leonce Dodoz who headed across to Masih Saighani. The flag was already raised as the linesman deemed the ball to go have come back in from outside from the corner as the Afghan defender’s goal was overturned, much to the dismay of the visitors.
The hosts replied back, against the run of play as Nicholas Fernandes beat his marker Laldinliana on the left channel to send a square pass for Koffi Mechac, who was left unmarked inside the box. The Ivorian just had to tap the ball in as Avilash Paul dived the other way with the Aizawl defenders having shipped in their eighth goal in the last five games.
Shoulders dropped immediately as the Aizawl players hardly found any rhythm and consistency in the final third. Most of the shots were taken out of haste which only resulted in gifting the possession back to the opposition.
It was more of the same in the second half. Churchill had a golden opportunity to double the lead in the 49th minute. Denechandram Meitei’s long throw-in was flicked off brilliantly by Mechac towards Dawda Ceesay whose misjudgment cost him a potential goal as he decided to shoot on the volley instead of stopping it and then attempting as the ball went over the bar from handshaking distance.
Referee Pratik Mondal redeemed himself in the 80th minute. With only the ‘keeper to beat, Lalrosanga had pulled down Dawda Ceesay, as the Gambian fell down inside the box.
The Aizawl defender was given his marching orders but the referee only signalled freekick with replays showing the last contact was made in the penalty arc, half a yard outside the danger area, thus validating the referee’s call.
None of the sides came close to scoring as Churchill failed to take advantage of the numerical advantage in the dying embers of the match.
The Goan side increased their tally to sixteen points as they went level with the title-holders but stayed a spot beneath them owing to an inferior goal difference. They next face the Indian Arrows as Aizawl FC, who are winless in their last five domestic games travel to face NEROCA FC on Saturday.
AIFF Media Release