Riding on goals from Israil Gurung and Bikramjeet Singh, Churchill Brothers SC recorded yet another victory as they edged out Prayag United 2-1 in a round eight I-League match at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata. Bello Rassaq pulled one back for Prayag however it was too late in the game for them to make a comeback after Beto was given his marching orders in the 85th minute.
Eelco Schattorie rang in changes from the team that was held to a stalemate against Salgaocar FC. Carlos Hernandez was missing from the lineup due to fever, while Deepak Mondal could not make it due to personal reasons. Chinta Chandrashekhar Singh came in at right back while Mohamed Rafique replaced Carlos in the middle of the park.
Subhash Bhowmick too made four changes from the side that captured a late victory against Shillong Lajong as Roberto Mendes da Silva made his way back to the starting lineup. Akram Moghrabi was the central striker supported on either side by Bineesh Balan and Israil Gurung, as they looked to play a fluid 4-3-3 formation with the front three exchanging positions at will.
Inside the opening ten minutes, the away side had a chance to go ahead as Akram Moghrabi’s shot was well saved by Subrata Paul. Gouramangi Moirangthem had horribly misjudged his header as he allowed Denzil Franco’s cross from the right flank to reach the unmarked Lebanese striker.
Prayag could have surged ahead from a set-piece just minutes later, as James Singh swung in a brilliant ball that found skipper Lalkamal Bhowmick unmarked, but his free header was well wide of Sandip Nandy and the Churchill goal.
Things turned almost disastrous for the home team, as Subrata Paul played Sukhen Dey’s back pass into the path of an onrushing Lenny Rodrigues. The Churchill midfielder dummied Paul but could not beat Sukhen Dey who came back to make a timely block and save his goalkeeper the blushes.
The nightmare was certainly not over for Paul, as four minutes before the half hour mark, the Prayag custodian flapped at Balan’s cross from the right flank. The ball reached Beto after striking Chinta, who flicked it onto the path of Gurung who made no mistake in smashing the ball to the ground. Even Bello Rasaq’s desperate attempts at making a goal line save did not work as the ball found the back of the net.
Just seven minutes before normal time, Sandip Nandy did a Subrata Paul as he flapped at a good lofted ball from Lalkamal Bhowmick, from the centre of the midfield, as the skipper saw CK Vineeth making a great run down the left. Unfortunately for Vineeth and Prayag, the player failed to find the open net as his shot was hopelessly wide with the entire goal staring at him.
Vineeth had another chance in the 40th minute as Ranti held off the two central defenders allowing him all the space as he had a free header from a James cross. Just like last time, his header was nowhere near target.
In spite of pressure in the second half, as Prayag United looked to score the equaliser, it was substitute Bikramjeet Singh who added the second for the away side. Henri Antchouet held up the ball really well, on the break before passing it to an onrushing Bilal Narjarine who made a great run from the centre of defense. Bilal put his head up and picked out substitute Singh who made a late run just outside the box. He had all the time in the world to take two touches and steady himself, before he accurately placed his shot to the left of a diving Subrata Paul, who had no chance to make a save.
Immediately before, Prayag United could have been back in the game as Sandip Nandy suffered from yet another embarrassing moment in goal. Lalkamal Bhowmick dinked up a ball to Sankar Oraon who was well shielded by Dharmaraj Ravanan. Nandy decided to come for the ball and collected it well, but then let it slip from his grasp. Ranti was there to pounce on the loose ball but he was found wanting as it sailed wide.
The Red Machines could have added another goal on the counter, as Prayag were desperately pushing men forward. Beto played a lovely long ball onto the path of Henry Antchouet who took full advantage of the mix up betwen Subrata Paul and centre-back Gouramangi Singh. Paul had left his line but failed to collect the ball. The Gabonese forward however let the change go begging as he failed to hit the target.
On the opposite end, it was substitute Oraon who impressed with his brilliant first touch which took his marker out of the game, but his final shot was smothered by Sandip. It was Ranti Martins who had played the ball to Oraon in the box who spun around the defender with a deft touch.
There was a lifeline for Eelco Schattorie's men as Bello Rasaq got one back for his team a minute before full time. Sankar Oraon did ever so well to hold up play outside the box before Ranti Martins crossed from the right which saw Sandip Nandy fail to collect the ball thus allowing Bello Rasaq an easy tap in.
Things could have been worse for Prayag United, as Tomba Singh could not capitalize in added time, as Henry again broke with the ball before playing him through with only Paul to beat. This time though, Paul stood him up and blocked the shot giving enough time for his defenders to come back and scuff Tomba's eventual shot.
The comfortable win takes Churchill Brothers just two points off early pace setters, East Bengal while Eelco Schattorie will have to work a lot harder as his side have slipped further in the championship race.
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