Churchill Brothers got off to a winning start in Group A as early strikes from Shabana and Balwant were enough to keep United SC at bay.Churchill Brothers beat United SC 2-1 in the opening fixture of the 35th Federation Cup at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi on Tuesday. Abdelhamid Shabana (5') and Balwant Singh (17') put the Goan outfit 2-0 up before Ranti Martins (43') pull one back before the break.
United SC could have gone ahead in the first attack which came in the opening minute but C.K. Vineeth headed a well worked cross by Eric Brown from the left over the horizontal.
Abdelhamid Shabana found himself unchallenged as he broke through from outside the box. His initial shot was blocked by Jayanta Paul but the Egyptian midfielder got on the ball on the second attempt to find the back of the net inside five minutes.
Shabana nearly found Wolfe in front of goal in the 13th minute but the 2006 World Cupper from Trinidad & Tobago was unable to stretch to collect the pass, while minutes later the United SC goalkeeper denied Balwant Singh at his near post on the right.
Another counter-attack by the Red Machines saw Balwant put through by Lenny Rodrigues and the latter rounded the keeper to double his side's advantage in the 17th minute.
In the 23rd minute, in what could have spelled disaster for Eelco Schattorie's side, a heavy touch by Paul almost saw the ball fall for Churchill striker Anthony Wolfe, but the goalkeeper reacted in time to make the clearance.
At the other end, Eric Brown took everyone by surprise as he got on the end of a good pass by Ranti Martins but shot wide from the left in the 41st minute.
United SC finally found a shot on target two minutes later when Martins turned his defender successfully after receiving a pass by Brown as the former blasted a right footed effort past Churchill goalkeeper Lalit Thapa.
The second half began in contrast to the first as both sides struggled to build any momentum with the ball bobbed down in midfield. Neither side showed any real urgency to attack the other.
It was only in the 71st minute that the second period saw a chance of note. United SC substitute Rajinder Kumar, who came in place of C.K.Vineeth, almost put the ball through for Martins but the striker was well shileded by Churchill's Bineesh Balan.
With time running out, United began to resort to long passes in order to get up the pitch and attack the opposition's box. In the 80th minute though, United SC goalkeeper Jayanta Paul needed to deflect a shot by Wolfe from the right in order to keep his side in the game.
Three minutes later, a shot from the left by Brown was destined for the goal but Thapa managed to parry the powerfully struck attempt away. Then in the 87th minute, Brown did well down the left and floated in a cross for Martins whose header was on target but was deflected away by Yumnam.
The game had sprung into life in the closing stages and United came agonizingly close to finding a late equalizer. Lalkamal released Rafique on the right flank, while the unmarked Martins failed to control the subsequent cross towards him. In the very next minute, the Nigerian missed another great chance when he headed Deepak's cross wide.
Churchill held on to their slender lead to take all three points and gain the advantage in Group A while United will be under pressure to bounce back in their next encounter.
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