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Churchill Brothers regain Hero I-League pole position after last-gasp win over Chennai City FC

Luka Majcen and his Churchill Brothers teammates celebrate a goal in the Hero I-League. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)
Luka Majcen and his Churchill Brothers teammates celebrate a goal in the Hero I-League. (Photo courtesy: AIFF Media)

Luka Majcen’s injury-time header led Churchill Brothers to regain their position at the top of the Hero I-League table after the Red Machine defeated Chennai City FC 2-1 at the Kalyani Municipal Stadium in Kalyani, West Bengal on Thursday, February 18, 2021. In an exciting game where Chennai City FC failed to make the most of their chances and finally succumbed, Luka Majcen’s 49th-minute strike was cancelled out by Elvedin Skrijlej’s 64th-minute penalty, before Majcen’s header in extra time proved to be the difference between the sides.

Coming on the back of a 2-0 loss against RoundGlass Punjab FC in their last match, Chennai City needed points to dig themselves out of the bottom half. And the Satyasagara-coached team displayed signs of urgency to grab the lead.

Dominating possession and often pinning Churchill Brothers in their own half, Chennai City FC searched desperately for an early goal and although they created chances, they had only themselves to blame for not converting them. Satyasagara’s squad could have easily been 2-0 up at half-time but once again complacency in front of goal cost them points.

In the 24th minute, Rajesh missed a sitter after he was put onto goal by an accurate Sriram through ball from the midfield. The midfielder failed to find the net in what should have been an easy opportunity to finish. On the 28th minute, Chennai City FC missed another opportunity to take the lead. Vineeth Kumar latched onto a ball from the midfield and put himself onto goal with his first touch. Kumar’s shot however was saved heroically by Shilton Paul who came out of his lines.

Last gasp defending for much of the first half, good keeping by Shilton Paul and Chennai’s woeful finishing, kept Churchill Brothers’ attacks heavily relied on counters. But even that did not reap dividends for them as Chennai played a high-line and constantly robbed the ball.

Perhaps the best chance of the first half for Churchill Brothers came in the form of a free-kick in the 43rd minute when Clayvin Zuniga’s effort went inches past the post. With the score goalless at half-time, Churchill Brothers came out spurred and looked to make an immediate impact.

They finally did convert their chance on the 49th minute. Clayvin Zuniga’s flick-on header found Luka Majcen in the box, and where the Chennai City forwards were failing, Churchill’s forwards did not. Majcen coolly controlled the ball and thumped home from close range to hand Churchill the lead.

But all did not go as planned for the Red Machines. On the 64th minute, faulty defending inside the box by Hamza Kheir handed Chennai City FC a lifeline, in the form of a penalty kick. Elvedin Skrijelj made no mistake from the spot and restored parity as the scoreline read 1-1.

Shortly after, Demir Avdic was provided a golden opportunity to put Chennai City ahead but once again finishing let him down, as he tried to chip the goalkeeper, but chipped over the post. Luka Majcen was probably given the best opportunity of the match to grab the winner on the 84th minute, but his shot from a handshaking distance, went over the bar of an empty net as Chennai City FC survived a dangerous Churchill counter-attack.

In the injury time of the second half, Clyavin Zuniga combined with Luka Majcen to set up a brilliant goal that proved to be the difference. Zuniga’s swirling cross into the box was headed from close range into the goal by Majcen after the Chennai defence failed to spot his run.

The full-time scoreline read 2-1 and with this win, Churchill Brothers go top of the league with 16 points, one clear of second-placed RoundGlass Punjab FC. Meanwhile, Chennai City FC stay in the bottom half with nine points.

(AIFF Media)