The table-topping Red Machines played out an entertaining draw against a flailing Dempo side who just couldn't keep a lead. Goal.com brings the match report from the Tilak MaidanChurchill Brothers SC keep a five-point lead between themselves and East Bengal after coming back twice, both through Sunil Chhetri (44', 53') to draw 2-2 with Dempo SC, from whom Ryuji Sueoka (12') and Climax Lawrence (45+1') had given the lead twice.
Dempo's Japanese medio Ryuji Sueoka and defender Samir Naik returned to the starting line-up after lengthy injury lay-offs, while Churchill midfielders Bineesh Balan and Ashley Fernandes were slotted in place of Beto and Bikramjit Singh who are recuperating from injury.
There was a change on the technical bench as well, as Churchill head coach Mariano Dias, who is in Germany for a coaching refresher course was replaced by technical director Subash Bhowmick and the Golden Eagles' head coach Armando Colaco was missing with assistant Mauricio Afonso taking charge.
The first chance fell to the Red Machines in the third minute when Bineesh Balan's header off a Steven Dias cross was tipped over the bar by Dempo keeper Subhasish Roychowdhury. Balan was a constant threat though two other shots from the player were off target.
But much against the run of play, Dempo took the lead. Debabrata Roy overlapped on the left wing and flashed a cross across the face of goal, picking out Ryuji Sueoka, who was unmarked. The Dempo man headed home with aplomb to give his side the advantage on 12 minutes.
Also in the first half, Denzil Franco's failure to effect a clearance could have led to trouble if not for some good cover-up play by his team-mate Lamine Tamba negating the run of Koko Sakibo; while Godwin Franco was lucky on the other side against the run of Lenny Rodrigues around the half hour mark.
Chhetri's shot from the edge of the box, after being squared by Balan, was thwarted by Dempo custodian Roychowdhury in the 36th minute before another shot by Antchouet went wide, while Churchill substitute Balal Arezou also saw his attempt go off-target.
Just as the first half seemed to be drawing to a close, Dempo defender Samir Naik brought down Chhetri just outside the penalty area in the 43rd minute. The error proved to be fatal as the Indian skipper's set-piece found the back of the net with consummate ease.
There was still more drama left before the half-time whistle. Dempo's reply came instantaneously as they regained the lead via a Koko Sakibo assist to Climax Lawrence (45+1') inside the Churchill box, which the latter smacked past Nandy in style.
The excitement continued in the second half as Peter Carvalho was adjudged guilty of bringing down Asley Fernandes for yet another Churchill free-kick that Chhetri put out of the outstretched goalie's reach into the left corner, levelling things up again in the 53rd minute.
Churchill were re-invigorated by the equalizer and went in search for the goal that would complete the turnaround. On 64' Lenny Rodriguez came close to a third goal for his side, before Antchouet found himself rather unlucky on not one, but two counts to get what would have been the winner.
Three minutes before the end, Churchill's Gabonese striker's goal-bound header was cleared tantalisingly off the line by Samir Naik following which Antchouet was again thwarted in the dying seconds of the game, this time by goalkeeper Roychowdhary who did well to block the former's shot.
A hard-fought point each for both sides was to be the final result in this Goa thriller!
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