I-League: Churchill puts four past Aizawl, jumps to second

The win takes Churchill Brothers into second spot in the I-League table, behind leader Chennai City FC, while Aizawl FC stays at the ninth position.

Churchill Brothers players celebrate after Khalid Aucho gave them the lead.   -  Special Arrangement

Churchill Brothers FC defeated former champion Aizawl FC 4-1 at home on Sunday to maintain its unbeaten record with a third win of the campaign and stay within sniffing distance of table topper Chennai City FC.

At Vasco Da Gama’s Tilak Maidan, the two-time former champion scored through Khalid Aucho, Israel Gurung, Anthony Wolfe and Willis Plaza while Aizawl’s only goal came from Liberian striker Ansumanah Kromah.

Churchill went into the half-time break two goals ahead while the rest of game’s five goals came in the second half.

With the victory, Churchill has moved to the second spot with 13 points from seven games. Chennai is four points ahead having played the same number of games. Aizawl, on the other hand, remains at the ninth position with five points from eight games.

The host fielded an unchanged side from its previous game against Gokulam Kerala, but Aizawl coach Gift Raikhan made as many as four from the eleven that started against Real Kashmir five days back. Kyrgystani Bektur Talgat got a start and so did Mapuia and Duata. Rinfela, David and Hmingthan Mawia were the players replaced.

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Gurung and Lalbiakthanga vie for the ball at Fatorda Stadium in Goa.   -  Special Arrangements

 

Churchill lost Hussein Eldor early in the game through injury and was replaced by Shillum Peres, his first minutes of the season.

Churchill took the lead in the 23rd minute courtesy a stinging volley from Ugandan Khalid Aucho. Gurung delivered a wonderful free-kick from just inside the Aizawl half on the right, which drew Aizawl goalie Gurpreet out of his line but the ball fell to Aucho, whose first time angled volley bulged the Aizwal net.

Churchill doubled its lead a minute later when Gurung headed home from a perfectly delivered Cessay cross from the left flank.

Raikhan showed urgency by bringing in David and Rinfela at the start of the second half.

It did pay off temporarily as Aizawl got one back in the 54th minute through Kromah. Mapuia got a free-run at the Churchill defence and put in a perfectly weighted cross for Kromah, who made no mistake and slotted it in past James Kithan in the Churchill goal.

A minute later, Aizwal almost drew level when Mapuia saw his header bounce off the bar.

Churchill’s Romanian coach Petra Gigiu then made an inspired substitution, bringing in Trinidadian Anthony Wolfe to replace Lamgoulen Hangshing in the 60th minute. A minute later, Cessay found him inside the box and Wolfe, with his first touch of league, shook off two Aizawl defenders, before putting the ball into the Aizawl net past Gurpreet.

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Israil Gurung poses with his man of the match award.   -  Special Arrangement

 

Wolfe’s Trinidadian mate Plaza was also not to be denied on the day as defender Wayne Vaz’s attempted cross caught Alfred Jaryan’s arm inside the Aizawl box and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Plaza scored for his seventh goal of the campaign, although Gurpreet called correctly and almost thwarted him.

Plaza, in fact, missed at least three more clear chances to score, but in the end, it was a job well done for Gigiu’s side which now looks like a serious contender for the title.

Right winger Israil Gurung, who picked up an assist for the first goal and scored the second, was rightfully adjudged the man of the match.