In what was a lackluster encounter between the Goan rivals, Churchill were held to a draw which meant that they failed to extend their lead at the top of the table...Churchill Brothers and Salgaocar FC played out a drab stalemate at the Duler Stadium in Goa. With chances in the match coming at a premium, Salgaocar were thwarted by Sandip Nandy's brilliance in goal to deny them three points. This means that Churchill have failed to successfully extend their lead at the top of the table giving the rest of the pack a fair chance for the I-League crown.
David Booth gave midfielder Cajetan Fernandes a start, while midfielder Randeep Singh and goalkeeper Karanjit Singh made their return from suspension. Gabriel Obatola was employed as a lone striker given that Josimar da Silva Martins is yet to complete his two-match ban.
On the other hand, Mariano Dias opted to start with defender Lamine Tamba despite the Senegalese carrying an injury and as Denzil Franco was suspended for the tie, Satish Singh replaced the right-back. Sunil Chhetri and Henri Antchouet started upfront for the league leaders.
It was end-to-end stuff right from the word go as both teams looked to press home their advantage. Randeep Singh forced an early save off Churchill custodian Sandip Nandy just after ten minutes while Beto let loose a fiery shot at the other end, which went just wide.
Although Salgaocar began to dominate midfield, it was Churchill who carved out the better chances. Dharmaraj Ravanan's header off a Steven Dias corner in the 17th minute was just wide off target. Chhetri and Antchouet missed their respective chances in the following minutes, before Dias was forced to make two changes, bringing on Naveen Kumar and Bikramjit Singh in place of Raju Yumnam and Beto around the half hour mark, adding to Churchill's increasing injury concerns.
Meanwhile, Salgaocar’s Francis Fernandes headed marginally wide after being allowed a free header in between Tamba and Yumnam off an Obatola cross from the left in the 28th minute.
The second half started off slowly but Churchill managed to keep hold of the ball better and Antchouet was almost through on goal in the 54th minute, if not for Augustin Fernandes' timely interception.
Ten minutes later, Obatola was denied twice, first by Ravanan’s block and off the rebound by Churchill keeper Nandy. That was not it, as in the 70th minute, Nandy pulled off another save to deny Obatola who looked desperate to get on the scoresheet.
Churchill Brothers exhausted their substitutions in the 72nd minute when Antchouet was sacrificed to bring on Afghanistan striker Balal Arezou.
Booth’s outfit got close to breaking the deadlock after Augustin’s header came off the post in the 79th minute, and Obatola’s follow-up attempt was thwarted by Nandy yet again. Randeep was the creator of both the chances.
At the other end, Bineesh Balan's header was kept out by Salgaocar keeper Karanjit Singh from a Steven Dias cross in the 85th minute.
Bikramjit and Chhetri did well to combine in injury time, but the latter was flagged off-side thus leaving Churchill with only a three point advantage over East Bengal who are hot on the heels. Meanwhile David Booth will be happy to have picked up a point and thus moving away from the relegation zone to sit comfortably in the ninth position.
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