I-League: Churchill Brothers holds Chennai City to remain unbeaten

East Bengal sits firmly on top of the league standings following its second successive victory against Shillong Lajong earlier on Thursday.

Chennai did finish the game stronger, but in the end, it was perhaps a fair result.   -  J. Manoharan

Churchill Brothers FC Goa remained unbeaten in the opening two games of the I-League 2018-19, following its 2-2 draw against host Chennai City FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore. Meanwhile, East Bengal sits firmly on top of the league standings following its second successive victory against Shillong Lajong earlier on Thursday.

Spaniard Nestor Jesus opened the scoring for the home team as early as the ninth minute, before Serbian defender Nenad Novakovic equalised in the second half. Israil Gurung then put the Goa side ahead, taking advantage of a goalkeeping error only for Chennai’s second Spanish midfielder Sandro to draw level soon after.

Chennai’s Singaporean coach Akbar Nawas opted to start with Lourdusamy in the midfield for the Churchill game, in place of under-22 defender Tarif Akhand, who had started its first game against the Indian Arrows, which it won 4-1, obviously buoyed by that performance.

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Chennai burst into the lead early, when Pedro Manzi, the striker who registered the 12th Hero I-League’s first hattrick in the Arrows game, sent Nestor through outside the Chennai box on the left. Nestor drove inside and placed an angled left-footer neatly across the face of goal, beating a diving Churchill keeper James Kithan to find the back of the net.

Churchill and its Gambian forward Dawda Cessay in particular then tried to show some urgency to get the equaliser, but Chennai took the one-goal advantage into half-time.

In the 51st minute, off a corner which resulted out of this purpose, Israil Gurung floated one near the first post and Serbian defender Nenad Novakovic rose to head in the equaliser.

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Two more goals then followed in the space of five minutes. First in the 58th minute, after Dawda Cessay’s laborious effort along the right flank, Pinto got hold of the ball and floated in a low cross from just outside the box. A seemingly easy collection by the goalkeeper, saw the ball slip out of the grasp, and to the horror of Chennai’s custodian Kabir, Israil Gurung was at hand to slot in an easy goal.

Churchill’s lead was shortlived however as barely four minutes later, after a spell of sustained pressure by Chennai, Sandro got hold of the ball inside the Churchill box off a Romario Jesuraj cross, turned one defender with a deft body move and shot towards goal. It eluded James Kithan on the near post and went in after hitting Churchill defender Wayne Vaz’s chest.

Chennai did finish the game stronger, but in the end, it was perhaps a fair result. Churchill has now collected two points from its first two games while Chennai has four points having played the same number of matches.

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