With 17 rounds of I-League matches completed, a fair estimate of all the teams can be obtained. Defending champions Dempo SC have always been the pre-season favourites and are still very much in the title race. Pune FC and East Bengal are also in the hunt but the team to be feared this season is Churchill Brothers.
The Red Machines did not have a good start to the season as they went down 2-1 to Armando Colaco's side in a closely contested encounter which they dominated. However, since then, the Red Machines have never looked back.
In their following 14 matches, they have been a ruthless streak. From blanking ONGC 5-0, the Goan side have demoralised a number of sides in the league and have won the respect of the opposition coaches. Notable matches include the 8-4 thumping of a listless Sporting side and the 6-0 hammering of Shillong Lajong. In their last match, Churchill cruised against their so-called title rivals East Bengal with a comfortable 3-0 victory, thus denting the latter’s title ambitions.
Watching this Churchill side in action is a treat for any football fan as the Goan outfit has been relentless in attack and boasts of some of the best I-League offensive players in its squad. Statistically speaking, the club has averaged around 2.6 goals per game which simply indicates the dominance of the Goan side. The attacking intent as a unit has been marvellous largely due to good team chemistry and has proved to be the key to Churchill’s success this season.
The team has been brilliant going forward...
The likes of Akram Moghrabi and Henry Antchouet are brimming with confidence and have done well in crunch situations. Young Bineesh Balan stepped up and scored a spectacular hat-trick to give Mariano Dias a few selection headaches as well. However, one man you cannot afford to miss out while crediting Churchill’s offensive display is Beto. The Brazilian has been instrumental in leading the team to the top of the table. The Churchill skipper has been immaculate in his performances this season, not to forget he is the leading goal scorer for the club with his tally of 13 and has by far been the standout performer in the league this season. He was the first player from the I-League to be honoured in the Goal.com's World Player of the Week award, beating Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrice Evra amongst others to the award.
Top class sides not only possess flair in their attack but also have solidity in defence. The league leaders have been miserly in defence to say the least and boast of the second best defensive record this season. The likes of experienced players like Dharmaraj Ravanan and Denzil Franco guarding former India number one Sandip Nandy has made the life miserable for opposition attackers. Facing the Red Machines must be a horrifying task for managers as not only do they have to deal with a rampaging attack but the thought of breaching a miserly defence would send chills down their spine.
The Goan side's 'never say die' attitude has worked wonders for them this season. In matches that have looked destined for a draw, Churchill have stepped up and grabbed three points much to the despair of their opponents. Such late drama can be crucial in the race to win the title. Some of those instances include Beto's 92th minute penalty against Pune FC which broke the deadlock and was the winner as well, Antchouet's 88th minute winner against Salgaocar FC, Moghrabi's 93rd minute goal against Shillong Lajong have together resulted in the them garnering 9 points which could have very well been 3.
Bhowmick has had a great impact on the club...
The appointment of Subhash Bhowmick as technical director has gone a long way in changing the outlook of the club. The former East Bengal coach has had a massive hand in Churchill's resurgence this season. Bhowmick would have been proud when his team beat his former employers East Bengal with a resounding scoreline. The Red Machines have a decent starting line up but came up trumps even with a modest bench as compared to the much fancied Red and Gold.
The Salcette-based club takes on a competitive Mumbai FC in their next assignment but with all due respect to Mumbai, the league leaders should get past that hurdle without much difficulty. A win against Khalid Jamil’s men would see Churchill extend their lead over Dempo and Pune FC to 7 points and that could prove decisive come the final match day of the I-League.
Churchill Brothers FC have shown all the signs of being India’s best football club this season. The Goan outfit has mastered the quality of winning games even on days where they have been far from their best. Mariano Dias’ men have the quality in attack, solidity in defence and the physical presence in their team to not only defeat but thrash whoever stands in their way. Can Dias’ men continue this impressive form come the end of the season? Only time will tell but for now, the Red Machines seem light years ahead of the pack and stopping them from winning the title seems irrational.
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