Salgaocar’s title bid alive; Churchill Bros not so much



Churchill Brothers suffered a dent in their title hopes as they went down to Salgaocar Football Club by a 2-1 margin in the Goa Professional League organised by Goa Football Association, played at Duler Stadium, here on Saturday.

Devendra Murgaonkar gave the early lead to Greens, while Samuel Costa doubled the lead for them from the spot. Nenad Novakovic scored the only goal for the Red Machines.

The win helped the Green Brigade to stay in the title contest as they climbed to the 3rd position with 44 points in 19 matches, while Churchill remained on 5th position with the same number of matches.

Churchill who had lost to Corps of Signals in their last match had fielded a strong team as their coach Norbert Gonsalves named five I-League players which also included Trinidadian striker Anthony Wolfe and Serbian defender Nenad Novakovich, whereas, Salgoacar coach Levino Pereira almost fielded the same XI which earned him full three points against Panjim Footballers in the previous round match.

Though Salgaocar bagged all three points in the match, it was Churchill who had the early chance to take lead in the 9th minute when their skipper Nicholas Fernandes nicely curled the ball to Wolfe in the box but Salgoacr keeper made a timely clearance before Trinidadian strike could do any damage.

Salgaocar replied with series of attacks and finally surged ahead in the 15th minute when Churchill keeper Kunzang Bhutia blocked Ronaldo Oliveira’s shot but he failed to stop Devendra’s rebound header which landed in the back of the nylons making it 1-0 for the Greens.

Salgaocar had two more chances in the next ten minutes but Churchill keeper Kunzang blocked Devendra strike from close, while a few minutes later he denied Ronaldo from making it double.

However, in the 25th minute, Churchill midfielder Gilbert Oliveira handled the ball inside the box where referee Prasad Surlekar quickly pointed towards the penalty spot. Samuel Costa made no mistake from the spot to make it 2-0 for his side.

Salgaocar almost scored the third goal in the 27th minute when their U-20 midfielder Chaitan Komparpant’s cross was on its way in to the goal but Churchill custodian Kunzang stretched to his limit to collect it.

Churchill also had the chance to reduce the margin in the 36th minute when Nicholas found his U-20 teammate Cyrus Noronha with a cross in the box, who headed it toward the goal but the U-20 forward saw it rebound off the post.

At the other end, Kunzang once again rescued his side, this time Devendra’s goalbound placement was brilliantly pushed for a corner by the custodian to limit the damage of his side. The Red Machines finally managed to reduce the margin in the 45th minute when Gilbert’s curling cross was brilliantly headed at the far post by Serbian defender Novakovic from inside the box to make it 2-1 for his side.

Energized by a goal, Churchill came with two deadly strikes in the added time but Salgoacar keeper Jason first denied Wolfe’s powerful shot from the top of the box for a corner, while a few minutes later, Novakovic’s header was nicely fisted over the crossbar by the Sikkimi custodian.

The second session started with a midfield play which saw both the sides trying to keep the possession which ended with a swift attack by Salgoacar in the 76th minute when Devendra found unmarked Samuel inside the box but the midfielder failed to keep his shot on target.

In between these, Churchill gaffer Gonsalves brought in Uttam Rai and Clencio Pinto to strengthen them in attack but the duo could not make any difference to the score sheet.

A minute later, Churchill skipper Nicholas made a darting run on the wing and curled the ball to Rai in the goalmouth, who tapped the ball home but Churchill’s joy was cut-short by assistant referee Yuvraj Tari who raised the flag as the forward failed to beat the offside trap. The decision was strongly protested by Churchill players and Officials but it was turned down by referee Surlekar

A few minutes later, another chance went in vain for the Red Machines as Salgaocar shot-stopper Jason brilliantly blocked Wolfe’s shot for a corner.

Churchill suffered another blow in the 89th minute as their coach Norbert Gonslaves was sent off by referee.

In the added time, Salgaocar custodian Jason came with two brilliant saves as he first thwarted skipper Nicholas, while a minute later, he denied Suraj Singh from scoring the equaliser as the Green Brigade grabbed all three points from the difficult match.