New-look Churchill hopes to end Kerala’s fairytale run

The two come face-to-face at Churchill’s home turf, the Tilak Maidan, in an evening fixture.

Churchill Brothers (above) is just a point above tenth-placed Indian Arrows.   -  AIFF

A new-look Churchill Brothers will have its task cut out as it takes on giant-killer Gokulam FC with an aim to end its winning-run in the I-League here on Saturday. The two come face-to-face at Churchill’s home turf, the Tilak Maidan, in an evening fixture.

The 3-2 victory, that Churchill Brothers recorded in the reverse fixture in January, had helped it turn around its season. The Goan club was beginning to climb up the ladder with a string of wins before hitting a rough patch, which saw it lose three straight games.

“We are in such a position that the reputation of the club and the players are at stake. We are in a hole which we ourselves have created. All the remaining three matches are literally like final for us,” Churchill Brothers coach Alfred Fernandes said on the eve of the match. The deflating defeat against Indian Arrows was followed by losses against Neroca FC and Chennai City.

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“The three games were a lesson to us and we know what we have to do now starting tomorrow,” Churchill captain Osagie Monday said.

The former I-League champion is just a point above tenth-placed Indian Arrows, who has suffered a shocking defeat to reigning champions Aizawl FC on Friday.

Meanwhile, Gokulam FC has hit the right chord at the right time and its five wins out of six in the last six rounds is one of the best in the division. In its last three matches against the top guns, it has beaten Mohun Bagan (1-2), East Bengal (2-1) and Minerva Punjab (0-1).

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“Our first aim is to play a very good game here. We don’t have any pressure so we can play freely. We can put hundred percent in the matches,” Gokulam FC coach Bino George reflected. The Kerala side has rocketed to the seventh place in the table with nineteen points from 15 matches.

“My target is that we badly need to play the Super Cup. I saw that in the last two-three matches, the boys have been giving their full effort. We came here, we will work hard and fight for the points. Churchill have always been a good side,” he added.

There is still a lot left to play for Churchill as it is only three points adrift of Gokulam in the points table. “Gokulam have been playing very good football. No wonder they have beaten all the big teams. It is very tough playing a team who are on song. But the boys are motivated,” Alfred suggested.

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Gokulam coach conceded that his team is highly motivated. “We badly need a team from Kerala. Now people have started following us. For the last six years, there has been no team from Kerala in the I-League. Kerala have a lot of good talented boys and this is a platform for them,” he said.

Alfred Fernandes shared that the club has roped in two new foreigners to stem the rot. “Yes, we have got two new strikers to strengthen our attacking options. Siyo Zuniappo (Congo) and Francis Oneyama (Nigeria) have joined the team to replace Koffi Mechac and Kalu Ogba respectively.”