MINOO FERNANDES | NT
Fatorda: Twin strike from Lalkhawpuimawia and a cracker of a shot by Willis Plaza gave Churchill Brothers FC a promising start to their I-League campaign as they beat Punjab FC 3-0 in their opening game at Nehru stadium, Fatorda-Margao on Sunday.
Lalkhawpuimawia found the mark in the 45+2 and 80th minutes while Willis Plaza scored in the 70th minute to complete a comfortable win for the Red Machines.
Churchill Brothers went into the lead in the add-on time of two minutes in the first half through their dashing striker Lalkhawpuimawia when it looked the teams would troop out for the break without a goal. Churchill inflated their lead through their scoring machine Willis Plaza to bring more excitement in the proceedings towards the last quarter of the match.
The match began with some probing moves at both end in which for the first fifteen minutes of play Churchill Brothers FC had a better ball possession than the visitors, who mostly depended on the counters to try and beat the host team defence.
Brazilian Sergio Barbosa, who played on the left flank as an attacker for the visitors, made some dashing runs but the Churchill Brother FC defence kept him under check wherein the towering and well built defender from Trinidad and Tobago Abu Bakr lingered around to contain Sergio.
Punjab FC’s Sergio Barbosa always looked dangerous with his swift runs but somehow the Churchill Brothers FC defence contained him whenever Barbosa came charging up inside the box.
The match was mostly confined to midfield with both teams playing it rather slow. It was in the 21st minute when Churchill Brothers made a serious looking move after under-22 medio Vinil Poojary made a dashing run down the right flank but ended in sending a defective pass to Churchill’s Willis Plaza, resulting the
move to die without much ado.
Churchill’s scoring machine Willis Plaza who was well marked by the rival defence starved for good passes and as such there were hardly any threatening moves in the upfront to dent the Punjab FC rearguard.
For most part of the play, the first session looked almost pedestrian with the midfield of both the teams lacking in spraying passes.
While Glan Martins did look busy in the initial stages for Churchill Brothers along with Dawda Ceesay and Ghanian Kalif Alhassan, they failed to impress in getting past the strong Punjab FC defence.
As Churchill Brothers tried to find the mark despite stubborn defending by the Punjab FC team, Dawda Cessay sent a measure lofted pass to striker Lalkhawpuimawia in the 30th minute but the striker failed to control the ball inside the box and a Punjab FC defender hurried in to clear the ball away to safety.
In the very next minute, there was a counter move which saw Punjab FC striker Dicka from Cameroon leaping high to connect a lofted cross which was muffed off followed by another good chance which Punjab’s Brazilian medio Danilo Azevedo heading off the mark just seven minutes from the lemon break.
Punjab FC’s English striker Jason Hart always lurked around the Churchill Brothers FC box but he was well marked and tamed before the striker from UK could cause problems.
Churchill Brothers went into the lead two minutes into the add-on time before the break (45+2) when Vinil Poojary collected a ball in the middle and sent it to defender Ponif Vaz who overlapped and in turn neatly laid a slicing pass to striker Lalkhawpuimwia who from the left flank lunged forward and tapped the ball in to beat Punjab FC keeper Bhaskar Roy.
Churchill Brothers started the second session on an attacking note and almost buttressed their lead when Willis Plaza leaped high to connect a high cross from defender Ponif Vaz, but the ball moved away from the target.
The proceedings in the second half looked similar to what was witnessed in the first session — slow and almost lacklustre with occasional forceful forays on either side.
Punjab’s captain Sanju Pradhan almost levelled the score in the 60th minute with a stiff grounder but an onrushing Churchill Brothers defender cleared the ball away for an abortive flag kick.
All in all, the match clearly lacked firepower, good passing abilities and positional play and it was only in the last quarter of the match that the proceedings looked lively and somewhat
Churchill Brothers buttressed their lead in the 70th minute when Willis Plaza bulged the nets with an angular effort off a pass from Dawda Ceesay. Plaza’s right footer gave no chance at all to the Punjab FC keeper. Youngster Lalkhawpuimawia completed his brace in the 80th minute to be the darling of the crowds.
Punjab FC were reduced to ten men in the 90+4 minutes following a red card flashed to defender Anwar who elbowed substitute Quan Gomes on the edge of the box.