Plaza’s hat-trick helps Churchill defeat Lajong

Captain Dawda Cessay's strike and Willis Plaza's hattrick helped Churchill Brothers to a 4-2 win over Shlillong Lajong, its first win of the I-League season.

Willis Plaza celebrates his goal against Lajong.   -  Special Arrangement

Churchill Brothers FC registered its first win of the 12th Hero I-League season, with the help of a Willis Plaza hattrick against Shillong Lajong at the Tilak Maidan on Thursday. Playing its first home game of the season, the win sees Churchill move to third in the league standings.

Captain Dawda Cessay scored the fourth for Churchill while it was the two Samuels, captain Lalmuanpuia and Lyngdoh, who got on the scoresheet for Shillong.

Churchill’s Romanian coach Petre Gigiu opted to make three changes to the starting XI from the one which played in the against Real Kashmir FC. First choice keeper James Kithan, who was suspended after he was sent off against Kashmir, was replaced by Vicky Baskaran while Aniston Fernandes started his first game this season. Jovel Martins also got another start. Khalid Aucho and Nalappan Mohanraj missed out with injuries.

For Shillong, Naorem Mahesh Singh, the man who had that wonderful double strike in its league opener, lost his place after some uninspiring displays. Sheen Stevenson was rewarded with a start by coach Alison while Kynsaillang Khongsit came in place of Kenstar Kharsong. There was a change in goal as well, with Phurba Lachempa replacing Neithovilie Chalieu.

The home team dominated the proceedings throughout with 24 shots on goal against 10 for its opponent, though only eight of them were on target. Its foreign strike force of Trinidadian Willis Plaza and Gambian Dawda Cessay looked in the mood right from kickoff. Along with the two foreigners, Israel Gurung also had a wonderful game on the left flank for the home side.

However, it was its Serbian defender Nenand Novakovic who got the first chance of the game as early as the 4th minute, when he missed a header from their first corner.

It was a free-flowing game with Plaza and Israil Gurung guitly of misses for Churchill while Samuel Lalmuanpuia and Buam also had attempts on goal for Shillong.

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Vicky Baskaran, who replaced the suspended James Kithan, dives unsuccessfully as Lajong put one past him.   -  Special Arrangement

 

Churchill took the lead in the 18th minute through Plaza, which was also his first goal of the season. Ceesay fired in a left-footed cross from the right flank and Plaza was perfectly positioned between two Shillong defenders to head home comfortably.

After Plaza muffed up one and created another chance which Hangshing missed, Shillong captain Samuel Lalmuanpuia equalised for the visitor in the 30th minute. A loose ball fell to him inside the box and his right-footed curler went past Vicky in the near post.

Hussein Eldor almost put Churchill ahead again two minutes later, as his tap in from an Israil Gurung free-kick brought about a reflex save from Lachempa. Churchill did go ahead again thanks to a stunning strike by Dawda Ceesay.

Shillong set the tone for the second half with a wonderful team goal in the 48th minute to get back on level terms.

Sheen held on to the ball long enough for Khongsit to go on an inspiring overlap from deep. Sheen laid it onto him and his cut back for Samuel Lyngdoh beat Vicky with his placement for a beautifully constructed goal.

However, just like in the first half, Churchill restored its lead immediately. Gurung’s free kick delivery from the left was met inside the box by Plaza and his header found the back of the net.

Plaza then got his hattrick, the second of the season, when he went on a solo run and finished with a low angled strike to make it 4-2 in Churchill’s favour.

As Churchill moved to third with this victory, Shillong's fourth consecutive defeat sees it remain in the ninth position.