MINOO FERNANDES | NT
Down by a goal as early as the 14th minute of the game, Churchill Brothers FC staged a magnificent comeback to beat Gokulam Kerala FC 3-1 and regain second position on I-League table, at Tilak Maidan, Vasco on Thursday.
With the win, Churchill Brothers displaced Neroca FC (21points) from the second position as they now have 22 points and are just two points behind table toppers Chennai City FC, who have 24 points in their kitty.
After Marcus Jr Joseph’s 14th minute strike gave visitors Gokulam FC an early lead, the hosts Churchill Brothers took little time to settle down but eventually managed to level the terms in the 36th minute through a powerful strike by their captain Dawda Cessay.
The second session was clearly belonged to Churchill Brothers’ goal machine Willis Plaza whose twin strikes — first in the 57th minute and then in the 90+1 minute of the 3-minute add on time – sealed the match 3-1 in hosts favour.
Earlier after pressing hard for almost twelve minutes and having complete grip on the proceedings, Gokulam Kerala went into the lead in the 14th minute through a goal which Churchill Brothers keeper let it go through his legs.
Gokulam striker Salman K darted down the right flank and sent a cross to an ideally placed Trinidade and Tobago striker Marcus Jr Joseph, whose carpet drive from 18 yards saw Churchill Brothers keeper trying to collect the ball haphazardly and in the process left the ball into the nets, which passed through his outstretched legs. Two minutes after conceding the goal, Churchill Brothers had a great chance to find the mark when medio Richard Costa crossed the ball to Willis Plaza, whose good try from the top of the box just whisked past the left post, missing the mark narrowly.
Churchill Brothers thereafter continued to play attacking game but came nowhere close in finding the mark.
While Churchill Brothers’ midfield comprising Khalid Aucho, Richard Costa and Chesterpoul Lyngdoh disappointed, Gokulam FC’s half line consisting of Brazilian Guillherme De Castro, Ugandan Mudde Musa and Company flourished, creating ripples in the Churchill Brothers rearguard, who survived some anxious moments.
But suddenly in the 36th minute, Churchill Brothers came up with a counter move as Richard Costa passed the ball on the left flank to Dawda Ceesay, who took a few steps forward and unleashed a powerful left footer that crashed into the far corner of Gokulam FC nets, giving no chance at all to the rival keeper Arnab Das Sarma.
The second half saw Churchill Brothers giving a much improved performance with Gokulam FC mellowing down a bit, though they made some occasional forays inside the rival territory.
Rejuvenated by the leveller, Churchill Brothers went into top gears and with constant attacking went a goal up in the 57th minute through a goal by striker Willis Plaza.
Churchill medio Chesteroul burst into speed on the right flank and then made a fine cross to Willis Plaza on the edge of six yard box from where the Red Machines’ prolific striker sent a cracking left footed shot to the far corner of rival nets just after Chesterpoul had a great chance who ended in hitting the ball against the legs of Gokulam keeper in a one-to-one situation.
As time ticked by, the confidence of Gokulam Kerala began to shake as Churchill Brothers looked lethal all the while in the second session. Another goal in Churchill’s favour looked imminent but the strikers lost their plot once inside the rival’s danger zone, shooting off the target from close distance.
And as the match entered into 90+1 minute, Churchill Brothers FC’s Willis Plaza completed his brace to become the highest goal scorer of this I-League season. After dodging two rival defenders, Plaza ran solo and on reaching top of the ‘D’ area banged the ball inside the Gokulam nets to complete a brilliant goal.