Churchill earn first point as EB fail to defend lead again

Debutant Mechah Koffi's 75th minute strike cancelled out Joby Justin's opener (26th) as the I-League clash between Churchill Brothers and East Bengal ended 1-1 at the Tilak Maidan in Goa on Monday.

By Our Bureau in Calcutta
  • Published 9.01.18
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SUPER STRIKE: Joby Justin puts East Bengal ahead with an acrobatic header past Churchill Brothers goalkeeper James Kithan. Picture courtesy: AIFF

Calcutta: Debutant Mechah Koffi's 75th minute strike cancelled out Joby Justin's opener (26th) as the I-League clash between Churchill Brothers and East Bengal ended 1-1 at the Tilak Maidan in Goa on Monday.

The home side made four changes from their last outing with Banpynkhrawnam Nongkhlaw, Alber Gonsalves, Eric Chukwunyelu being replaced by Wayne Vaz, Alber Gonsalves and Mechac Koffi. Former Pune FC man PM Britto also made his first season start.

Vaz and Martins have been acquired on-loan from ISL outfits FC Pune City and FC Goa respectively while Koffi is one of the four new signings alongside Bektur Talgat, Cisse Gwada and Hussein Eldor.

Churchill Brothers could have taken the lead in the 10th minute but Uttam Rai wasn't able to connect cleanly to Nicholas Fernandes' cross after an exemplary pass from Obga Kalu to the left winger.

Nicholas did well to set up Peter Omoduemuke but the Nigerian shot over the target and a couple of minutes later the home side were behind.

Jobby Justin dived in to nod Laldanmawia Ralte's delivery from the right with the initiation of the attack provided by Katsumi Yusa in the 26th minute.

The lead was almost doubled by Mahmoud Al Amna who ran himself in an on-side position to get on the end of Justin's through ball. However, despite a timely reaction by Osagie Mondayrooted, the Syrian effort crept past the far post.

Lalram Chullova's cross after being released on the right by Laldanmawia in the second half was in a dangerous area but both Justin and Katsumi were beaten by the flight of the ball in the box.

Kalu missed the target by inches after a free-kick taken by Peter was cleared as far as the Churchill medio around the hour mark. Churchill eventually got the equaliser in the 75th minute when Koffi controlled the ball and curled it past a hapless Luis Barreto from around 18 yards after a neat one-two with Britto. This was Churchill's first point in this season's I-League.

Five minutes later, Churchill could have pulled ahead with Koffi moving past Arnab Mondal and crossing the ball across the face of goal. Britto lobbed it towards Uttam but the Sikkim-born forward could only see the pass hover above him before it was cleared.

"We lost two important points. Churchill got a two-week rest, whereas we have been continuously. We lost two points due to fatigue," East Bengal coach Khalid Jamil said after the match. Khalid refused to blame the defence for the equaliser. "No point blaming the defence. We have to work harder. We have to make sure we do not repeat mistakes," he added.

In Shillong, Lajong FC returned to winning ways after a 1-0 win against the Indian Arrows.

It was the solitary strike from Abdoulaye Koffi in the 80th minute that propelled Lajong to fourth place on the table, displacing Mohun Bagan.

After being humiliated 0-3 in their previous encounter against Indian Arrows, Lajong came out with intent and a desire to find the opener. Chances came thick and fast for the Northeastern side and had Hardy Cliff connected to a perfectly measured diagonal ball from Samuel, Lajong could have taken the lead within the first 10 minutes.