Churchill Brothers SC 1-1 Mohun Bagan: Chhetri takes the Red Machines past the finishing line

The Goan side secured their second I-League title as they earned a crucial point against the Mariners...
Scenes of jubilation thronged the Tilak Maidan stadium as Churchill Brothers SC secured a hard-fought point against  Mohun Bagan to seal their second ever I-League title!

Needing just a point going into this one, the Red Machines were made to sweat and toil by Karim Bencherifa's men in Goa. The tie finished one-apiece following goals from CS Sabeeth and Sunil Chhetri for the visitors and hosts respectively.

Mariano Dias was back in the technical area for Churchill Brothers as the home side saw the return of Beto who recovered in time to make it into the line-up.

With Australian striker Tolgay Ozbey out due to injury, Sabeeth Sathyan paired up with Odafa Okolie for the away side.

Syed Rahim Nabi broke through very effectively on the right side of the Churchill box in the sixth minute and let go of a left-footer which saw goalkeeper Sandip Nandy pull off a reflex save.

Beto was at the centre of action in the next few minutes when he sent a free-kick straight into the hands of Bagan keeper Shilton Paul in the 13th minute before setting up team-mates Henri Antchouet and Sunil Chhetri, but the duo were unable to make the best of their respective opportunities in the 15th and 21st minutes.

The assembled crowd at Tilak Maidan were left stunned when Quinton Jacobs snatched the ball from the feet of Beto and released Sabeeth Sathyan, who sniffled past Churchill defenders Ravanan Dharmaraj and Sathish Singh, before slotting the ball at the near post in the 27th minute.

Karim Bencherifa was forced to substitute injured striker Odafa Okolie by bringing in Manish Bhargav at the half hour mark, before making another tactical change replacing Lalrinfela with Snehasish Chakraborty seven minutes later.

Churchill Brothers couldn't come out of their own half and the tackles were flying in from both sides as Mohun Bagan went into the break with a one-goal advantage.

Nabi skied a sitter six minutes in the second half from close range after the ball fell to the India international admist a goal-mouth meelee in the Churchill area.

Beto and Chhetri got close around the hour mark off back-to-back corner kicks, before the latter was substituted by Afghanistan striker Balal Arezou in the 64th minute.

The newly introduced Churchill No. 43 injected pace as well as inspiration into the home side's ranks. Operating on the left-hand side, Arezou was in the thick of things for the remainder of the game.

The Red Machines were getting hot on the trails and could have earned the equaliser in the 66th minute, but Bagan defender Nirmal Chhetri did exceedingly well to head a volley from Bineesh Balan just about six yards from the goal line.

The Mariners keeper Shilton Paul showed some brilliance two minutes later to scramble the ball away off the feet of onrushing Balal Arezou.

What followed however was what won Churchill Brothers the I-League title as Sunil Chhetri towered to head in a cross from Balan in the 72nd minute, although it was a deflection off Manish Bhargav that caught on the ball, with Arezou playing a major role in the build-up.

Both sides rallied on in the final few minutes despite cramps to players from both sides hampering the game's progress on quite a few occasions. But it well went as per the script and Churchill Brothers held on to be crowned champions of India!

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