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Churchill drub Bagan 3-1

Calcutta/ Margao: Mohun Bagan’s dream of winning the I-League suffered a massive jolt when they lost 1-3 to Churchill Brothers in Margao on Wednesday.

After Jose Ramirez Barreto put the visitors ahead with in the 29th minute, Churchill skipper Odafe Okolie’s header restored parity at the stroke of half time. Man of the match Ogba Kalu then scored a brace (58th and 76th).

Churchill now have 36 points from 18 matches and are ahead of Sporting Clube de Goa by a point. Bagan are in the third position with 33 points from 17 matches.

It was Mohun Bagan’s second loss in a row in the I-League — East Bengal defeated them 3-0 on February 22 — and at present things are not looking that rosy for Karim Bencharifa’s boys. They lack the intensity and the zeal that was so much visible during that 10-match winning streak.

Bencharifa, in fact, found the loss similar to that against East Bengal.

“Like February 22, today also we had a bright start and got that early goal. But the equaliser and Barreto’s back injury disturbed our rhythm,” Bencharifa told The Telegraph from Margao.

The green and maroon brigade began brightly with Lalkamal Bhowmick and Shylo S. Malswamtluanga combining well on the right side. And their efforts paid off when Bhowmick found Barreto inside the box. The Brazilian brilliantly chested the ball down, which left his marker Rowilson Rodrigues and goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya for dead, and on the turn hit a right-footer which crashed into the far corner. For the record, it was his 75th goal of the National League.

Churchill’s equaliser once again exposed Bagan’s discomfort when it comes to set piece movements. Sangram Mukherjee had no business in rushing out when Peter Odafe had things under control. Churchill’s Odafe punished the visitors with a smart header.

Bencharifa did not single out Sangram for the goal but conceded that his team never recovered from that.

Bencharifa said that he was finding it difficult to keep his team fresh. “On March 10 we have an AFC Cup match against Al Karamah in Syria. We have to prepare for that,” he said.

A Bagan source, however, revealed that some players, including Barreto, would be rested for the AFC Cup match. “I-League is the priority,” the source said.

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