Mechac, Vaz first-half goals seal win for Churchill

Minerva Punjab halved the deficit through Kassim Aidara's 57th-minute strike but it couldn't find the equaliser.

Churchill Brothers players celebrate scoring a goal in the match against Minerva Punjab FC.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Churchill Brothers registered a stunning victory over league leader Minerva Punjab FC as it won 2-1 in its Hero I-League encounter at the Tilak Maidan, Vasco on Friday.

First-half goals from Koffi Mechac (17′) and Wayne Vaz (45′) put the Red Machines in an advantageous position before Minerva Punjab pulled one back through Kassim Aidara’s goal (57′).

The result put a dent into Minerva’s title charge as it stays on 26 points with Neroca FC just two behind and Kingfisher East Bengal six points adrift. The Red Machines jumped straight to 7th place with 13 points.

Read: Lajong hosts Bagan in crucial clash

Expectedly, there were some changes for Churchill Brothers as fatigue and tiredness could be the reason why coach Alfred Fernandes brought in the fresh pair of legs of Bektur Talgat, Nicholas Fernandes and Harshad Naik in place of regular starters like Kalu Ogba and Britto PM, while Uttam Rai was carrying a slight niggle.

Meanwhile, Moinuddin and Abhishek Ambekar took the place of Souvik Das and Deepak Devrani for Minerva Punjab FC.

After some end-to-end action, a big moment in the match came when William Asiedu was tackled by Wayne Vaz in the box after William was released by Checho Gyeltshen. Although the visitor had a strong appeal for a spot-kick, the referee paid little attention to it.

In the 16th minute, the referee awarded a penalty at the other end for Churchill Brothers and Koffi Mechac drew the first blood much to the dismay of the traveller.

Churchill midfielder Bektur Talgat lined up a shot from distance that deflected into the path of Koffi Mechac. Sukhdev Singh went into a tackle on the Cote D’Ivoire striker and the referee pointed straight to the spot.

Minerva had a chance when a curling free-kick from William Opoku was punched away by James Kithan. Minerva suffered a further setback at the stroke of the half-time when local boy Wayne Vaz netted from wide.

Minerva Punjab FC conceded a free-kick close to the half-way line and Osagie Monday released Dawda Ceesay down the right flank. Ceesay slid a pass to Wayne Vaz to cross into the box. His first attempt was blocked but the ball came back to Vaz who curled the ball towards the goal second time.

The effort caught Minerva keeper Kiran Kumar Limbu, who was well off his line, Churchill racing to a 2-0 lead going into half-time.

Minerva found a lifeline in the 57th minute when it won a free-kick down the left flank near the touchline. Chencho curled the free-kick into the box. The ball was not cleared away and fell kindly to Minerva skipper Kassim Aidara, who slammed home to make it 2-1.

It had a golden opportunity to level terms when Churchill conceded a penalty in the 61st minute. A Minerva corner saw Aidara knocked the ball back into the middle which caught Wayne Vaz’s hand.

Chencho stepped up to take but his thumping shot went wide of Kithan’s post.

Churchill had some goal-scoring opportunities to score but held its nerve to take all three points.

The Red Machines has an eight-day break now before taking on Indian Arrows on 10th February whereas Minerva Punjab FC will welcome Shillong Lajong FC at its ‘new home’ in Chandigarh.

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