| Churchill defenders Pio Rodriguez (right) and Noel Wilson trying to stop East Bengal’s Gilmar Goncalves Wednesday. Inset: Aqueel Ansari, who hit the winner. Pictures by Santosh Ghosh
CHURCHILL 1 EAST BENGAL 0
Calcutta: Veteran Aqueel Ansari emerged out of oblivion and scored the only goal of the match as Churchill Brothers stunned East Bengal in Wednesday’s TVS Fiero IFA Shield match at Salt Lake Stadium.
The victory ensured Churchill Brothers’ passage to the semi-finals as they finished their campaign in group A with five points from three games. Indian Bank (four from three), East Bengal (three from two) and Tollygunge Agragami (one from two) all have theoretical chances of making the last-four and Friday’s clash involving the last two will determine who makes the cut.
It was not a match East Bengal thought they would lose, considering the kind of domination they displayed, even without a string of frontliners. They failed to make use of the several half-chances they got and paid the ultimate price following one rare moment of carelessness in deep defence.
It seemed as if the match was heading for a draw until Churchill forced a flag-kick on the left in the 83rd minute. Almost the entire East Bengal team was inside the penalty area but Farooq Haider’s floater eluded everybody and Ansari popped up from nowhere to head in the winner.
It was Churchill’s only chance of the match and they had to convert it to remain in contention for a semi-final berth.
Not that East Bengal created too many easy chances but their supremacy in midfield movements and build-ups was all too evident. It didn’t count in the end because they badly missed one genuine striker. With too many players unavailable, coach Subhas Bhowmick fielded Sashthi Duley as Gilmar Goncalves’ partner up front and though the former worked tirelessly, his shortcomings as a goal-getter didn’t help the team.
Gilmar, quite ineffective with the ball on his right foot, showed some nice touches with the left but the few crosses he managed were not properly dealt with. Chandan Das was the culprit on at least two occasions and on another, Duley’s header hit the horizontal. Soumitra Chakraborty failed to knock in the rebound.
The Brazilian got two golden chances in the second half: in the third minute when Duley released him down the middle and in the 71st when a horrible goal kick by ’keeper Edward Ansah found him near the centre. Gilmar dragged it towards the right on both occasions before an annoyingly weak right foot let him and his team down.
Gilmar injured a muscle later and is unlikely to take any further part in the IFA Shield.
Even though it was a must-win situation for Churchill, they didn’t show too much urgency. They tried to keep the ball mostly on the ground, but the passing wasn’t sharp and there wasn’t much in terms of variety. Striker Yusif Yakubu was the target of most moves but he was closely marked. The East Bengal defence, in fact, had a pretty good match barring the late slip.
The Goans were also without some of their regulars and captain Noel Wilson was forced to play as deep defender. The former international played his heart out and his timely interceptions denied East Bengal a look at the goal quite a few times.
CHURCHILL BROTHERS: Edward Ansah; Denzie Ferrao, Noel Wilson, Pio Rodriguez, Farooq Haider; Roque Barreto, Aqueel Ansari, Zaheer Abbas, Kanta Singh (Samir Naik, 79); Preetam Bahadur (Tiken Singh), Yusif Yakubu.
EAST BENGAL: Sangram Mukherjee; Amjad Ali Khan, Arun Malhotra, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Suley Musah; Shankarlal Chakraborty, Chandan Das (Jiten Rai, 46), Tushar Rakshit, Soumitra Chakraborty; Shashthi Duley, Gilmar Goncalves (Trijit Das, 80).
Referee: Bharat Moni (Karnataka).