Churchill Brothers SC defeated Mohun Bagan AC 2-1 to advance to the final of the 35th Federation Cup at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Thursday. All the goals came in the first half. While Balwant Singh and Anthony Wolfe scored for the winners, Odafa Okolie reduced the margin for the Kolkata team. This is Churchill Brothers’ maiden entry to the final of the Federation Cup.
In the two of their earlier Group League matches, Churchill Brothers had scored early. They managed to live up to the tradition as they took the lead in the 4th minute. And it came of a set-piece.
The Bagan defence watched as an unmarked Balwant Singh headed in Thangjam Singh’s corner past Bagan custodian Shilton Paul. Who said Indians don’t score in Indian Football?
The early goal inspired Churchill more. On the contrary, Bagan seemed to run out of ideas. Churchill preferred to play among themselves. There was always support for the other. The workload shared by Lenny Rodrigues and Abdel Hamid Shabana was exemplary.
If the first goal was a wake-up call, the second came ten minutes later — in the 14th minute. Balwant received the ball on the edge of the 18-yard box and as he turned past Aiborlang Khongjee, the latter brought him down. Who says Indians aren’t impact Players?
Anthony Wolfe made no mistake to convert from the spot. It was barely 14 minutes and Churchill, with all in control, were already 2-0 up.
The trend continued for the first 20 minutes as most of the play stayed restricted to Bagan’s half. Whenever Bagan tried to attacked, everything was mostly directed towards Odafa Okolie, making it all the easier for their rivals.
Odafa wasn’t allowed to turn and when he did for the first time in the 30th minute, he set up Ram Malik in the clear. But as Ram was that split second late in pulling the trigger, Ravanan Dharamraj recovered to thwart the danger.
It was in the 32nd minute that Bagan had their first crack at the Churchill goal. But Yusa Katsumi’s shot was palmed away by Lalit Thapa.
However, Odafa reduced the margin for Bagan the very next minute. The Nigerian chested Denson’s through pass and placed it past Thapa.
With the lost confidence regained, Bagan looked a bit more purposeful in the last 15 minutes of the first half. They could have made it 2-2 but an alert Thapa defied Odafa after the Nigerian had sidestepped Denzil Franco and tried to place it in.
Post resumption, Churchill survived a scare in the 54th minute. Christopher Chiboza trapped Odafa’s pass but his left-footer agonisingly hit the post after beating a diving Thapa.
Churchill’s first chance in the second half came in the 63rd minute. Jason Vales, with a sudden burst of speed went past Shouvik Ghosh but Paul managed to fist his effort for a corner.
It could have been all over for Bagan in the 71st minute but another of Balwant’s header, all addressed to the net, beat all and hit the post. The very next minute, Wolfe’s centre went past the Bagan goalmouth even as a desperate Vales tried to make contact. Shilton was all beaten.
Churchill stayed dominant for the remaining part of the match. Bagan looked listless and as the match progressed, faded away.
(Report courtesy AIFF Media)