| Churchill players celebrate after winning the I-League in Margao on Thursday. Picture by Rozario Estibeiro |
Margao: Churchill Brothers final-round I-League match against the relegation-bound Mohammedan Sporting was touted as a mere formality. And it stayed just that.
The Goan club fulfilled their long-cherished dream by claiming their maiden national football title with a 6-2 mauling of Mohammedan Sporting at the Fatorda stadium here on Thursday. The Calcutta outfit, thus, are relegated to the second division, along with Vasco Sports Club.
The celebrations, plans for which had been made well in advance, began as early as in the seventh minute when Okolie Odafe netted the second goal for the hosts. Mohammedan Sporting, needing a miracle to stave off relegation, were caught on the wrong foot when Wasim Feroze, trying to intercept a low cross from Chandamchitra Singh, ended up striking it into the net in the fifth minute.
The 20,000 odd home crowd needed little prompt and soon the noise of crackers and trumpets began to fill the stadium. Churchill, however, seemed to take the foot off the pedal until the 52nd minute when Mike Okoro reduced the margin for the Calcutta club with a header off a Satyajit Bose freekick.
The goal was greeted with a pin drop silence, but it also woke up the lion from its slumber. Churchill responded with two goals in the space of four minutes with Felix Chimaokwu and Khanthang Paite finding their names in the scoresheet.
Two more came in the last six minutes. Odafe increased his overall tally for the season to 49 with his second goal of the match before Naoba Singh stretched the lead in the 88th.
Jyothi Kumars goal in the added time would have done little to soften the blow on Mohammedan Sporting.
The result marked a dream come true for the countrys only family club.
We have been runners-up four times. I dedicate this win to my parents and my brother Alvarez (who died a few years ago), said team owner Churchill Alemao.
The victory would also erase the pains of last year when the Goan club finished tied on points with local rivals Dempo but lost out on goal difference.
Mohammedan Sporting, despite the rout, had their hero as well. Custodian Manas Barua, playing only because first choice goalie Naseem Akhtar was down with malaria, put up a sterling show with several saves. Had it not been for the youngsters performance, the margin of defeat could have been bigger.
Churchill Brothers: Lalit Thapa (Vinay Singh 86), Rowilson Rodgrigues, Felix Chimaokwu, Naoba Singh, Ogba Kalu, Odafe Okolie, Khenthang Paite (Bineesh Balan 78), R Vashum, Chandamchitra Singh, Gouramangi Singh, Robert Lalthalma (Y Raju 14).
Mohammedan Sporting: Manas Barua, Mir Farooq Hyder, SK Azim, Satyajit Bose, Mike Okoro (Gautam Thakur 82), Suraj Mondal, Eugene Gray (Jyothi Kumar 65), Wasim Feroz, Adewusi Adebayo (Sovan Chakraborty 20), Rajib Ghosh, Bijoy Das.
Referee: S Suresh (TN).
Man of the Match: Okolie Odafe.