Grand first for fiery Churchill
Heading into the final against fellow Goans, Sporting Clube de Goa, Churchill were the in-form team with four wins from four games but Sporting had come through the challenge of Bengaluru FC, Rangdajied United as well as defending champions East Bengal in the group stages. They also beat Dempo, losing finalists last time out, in the semifinals on their route to the final.
But Churchill made light work of Sporting, a third loss in the final of this tournament, running out 3-1 winners. The margin of victory could have been even greater had the Red Machine made more of the chances that came their way.
All of Churchill’s wins have come on the back of scoring early and Saturday was no different. It also came through a familiar route. Balwant Singh, who had opened the scoring for Churchill in the 4th minute in the semifinals against Dempo, again opened the scoring following a defensive mix up in the 21st minute.
A long ball from Denzil Franco created chaos in the Sporting box and Balwant calmly rounded the ’keeper Ravi Kumar before slotting the ball into an empty net.
Soon after the opener, Sporting’s influential marksman, Boima Karpeh, who was giving the Dempo backline a headache or two with his clever movement, was lucky to stay on the pitch after he elbowed midfielder Abdelhamid Shabana in retaliation to the midfielder’s tackle. The referee was lenient and Boima was let off with a yellow card.
Shabana and midfielder Anthony Wolfe were pulling the strings from midfield and Shabana could have doubled Churchill’s advantage but for the crossbar which came to Sporting’s rescue in the 40th minute. Both sides returned after the half-time break unchanged and Churchill were soon celebrating a second.
After Ravi fumbled a loose ball in the box, midfielder Alesh Sawant was on hand to convert a simple chance in the 47th minute. At the other end, Sporting had a decent chance with Victorino Fernandes’ cut back finding Boima but his tame shot was snaffled up by the Churchill backline.
Sporting were beginning to make decent inroads but Churchill soon found a third which killed the game off as a contest.
After Sporting failed to clear a Churchill corner, defender Saran Singh sent a peach of a through ball to Shabana, whose first time hit nestled in the back of the net in the 64th minute. Sporting showed some resilience when they pulled one back through Fernandes three minutes later but Churchill never looked in serious trouble of throwing away their advantage.