East Bengal's title hopes took a massive hit as they suffered a narrow defeat in Goa thanks to Lalit Thapa's heroics for the Red Machines...Churchill Brothers held on for a crucial 1-0 win over East Bengal in an I-League encounter on Wednesday evening at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa. Raju Yumnam scored the only goal of the contest in the 23rd minute.
Armando Colaco named an unchaged line-up from the one that triumphed against Pune FC with Chidi Edeh continuing upfront with Ryuji Sueoka operating in a withdrawn role behind the duo.
Churchill Brothers meanwhile went with the strike partnership of Balwant Singh and Anthony Wolfe with Abdelhamid Shabana offering support from midfield.
The hosts began well and created the first chance in the sixth minute. Shabana's through ball found Anthony Wolfe who took a touch to go past Abhra Mondal in goal but the East Bengal custodian recovered to palm it away.
In the following minute, Wolfe's run from the right initiated a move that ended with Balwant firing just wide from inside the box.
With 23 minutes played, the home side got their reward as Raju Yumnam's left-footed strike found the back of the net after a misplaced Saran Singh pass had fallen kindly to him.
Two minutes later, they nearly doubled their lead as Saran's dangerous free-kick from the right found Balwant. However, the striker headed well above the target from point blank range.
In the 34th minute, Wolfe chose to go for goal and saw his shot go wide when he could have passed it to Balwant who was left unmarked.
A lacklustre display from the Red and Gold brigade meant that Churchill comfortably held on to their lead until the half time whistle.
In the 50th minute, Joaquim Abranches' cross was cleared by the Churchill defense. They then launched a counter-attack with Wolfe down the right flank. He picked out Balwant with a perfectly measured ball but the striker failed to find the target.
A minute later, Lalit Thapa produced a great save after Chidi Edeh was put clean through. The Churchill custodian succeeded in making himself big and thwarted the effort.
Not to be outdone, Abhra Mondal then pulled off a top class save at the other end of the pitch in the 55th minute. Shabana had dribbled past two players, before putting Wolfe through with a great ball. The forward opted for power instead of placement and blazed it over the bar.
Chidi wasted a glorious opportunity in the 74th minute after being put through by Cavin Lobo. His first touch was good and took him past Ravanan but his shot was wasteful, as he failed to hit the target.
However, Balwant's glaring miss in the 81st minute was the pick of the lot. He was put through by Wolfe on the right and only needed to tap the ball home but the Indian forward shot well over.
Sueoka was played in by Abhishek Das in injury time but Lalit Thapa produced another wonder save. Churchill held on to secure a hard fought three points which takes them above Mohammedan Sporting with a game in hand.
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