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I-League 2018/19: Churchill blitz Bagan to surge to second

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Kolkata: Two-time former champions Churchill Brothers FC Goa delivered a three-goal blitz to snuff out the challenge of Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan at their home at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) on Sunday.

Gambian Dawda Cessay opened the scoring for the visitors 21 minutes into the first half, before a Dalraj own goal and a Willis Plaza strike within four minutes of each other in the second half ensured the Red Machines’ first victory on the road.

This result takes Churchill to second place on the points table with nine points from five games while Bagan move down a step to fourth with eight points from the same number of games.

The game began with Mohun Bagan coach Sankarlal Chakraborty giving Haitian club star Sony Norde his first start of the season in place of Egyptian Omar Nabil. Churchill’s Romanian coach Petra Gigiu made three changes of his own but had to reverse two of them in unfortunate circumstances later in the game.

Ugandan Khalid Aucho was brought in to bolster midfield in place of Aniston Fernandes by Gigiu. While first-choice keeper James Kithan, after serving a suspension and experienced defender Nalappan Mohanraj was also brought in, in place of Vicky Baskaran and Jovel Martins, both got injured in the game forcing a reversal.

Bagan dominated possession as usual and had over a dozen corners to Churchill’s one in the entire game, but Churchill delivered a thoroughly professional performance in the end to run deserving winners.

Churchill built an attack after intercepting Bagan in midfield and Hansing aimed for the Trinidadian Plaza inside the box who had made a wonderful run. Dalraj scrambled to clear in from an awkward position and only reached till an onrushing Cessay inside the box. The Gambian expertly slotted in between the defender and keeper with a well-placed left-footed grounder.

Bagan’s best chance of the half came from Sony as early as the 16th minute when the Haitian hit the left upright after a snapshot from outside the box.

Churchill doubled their lead immediately after the break through an unfortunate own-goal by Dalraj, however, Bagan’s defence giving too much space to Churchill’s wingers had to come back to haunt them.

Israil Gurung, in particular, had a brilliant game and this time his cross from the right found Plaza’s head, but he misconnected towards Dalraj’s chest which deflected the ball towards goal, completely wrong-footing Shilton Paul in the Bagan goal.

Willis Plaza did find his goal just four minutes later and joined Chennai’s Pedro Manzi as the league’s top scorer with four goals. He initiated and finished the move when Churchill again caught Bagan on the break and Plaza found Dawda Cessay with a lot of space on the left flank and ran on towards the goal.

Cessay returned the favour a pin-point cross for Plaza’s head to make no mistake this time. Churchill were 3-0 ahead.

After that, it became a story of Bagan’s tries, albeit without much imagination and Churchill defending with aplomb. The only time Bagan found the net, the referee had already flagged up for a foul.

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