Churchill edge past Salgaocar in I-League


Margao : Odafe Okolie scored a last-gasp controversial penalty as Churchill Brothers huffed and puffed their way past Salgaocar Sports Club 2-1 in the I-League at the Nehru Stadium here Saturday.

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Churchill were tied 1-1 until the last minute of regulation time, but the 10 minutes of injury time, controversially flagged by referee Pradeep Kumar, came as a breather for the Karim Bencherifa side.

Churchill dominated in injury time with Odafe forcing a lunging tackle from Salgaocar stopper-back Nicolau Colaco inside the danger zone. Referee Pradeep Kumar saw the incident from close and lost no time in pointing to the dreaded spot.

Odafe himself walked to take the spot kick and showed remarkable confidence as he sent goalkeeper Marcus Basumatari the wrong way to send Churchill’s legion of supporters into raptures.

Despite scoring the match-winner, Odafe seemed to have a rare off day against Salgaocar. Odafe’s marker – Agnelo Colaco – did an appreciable job as he gave little or no space for the Nigerian striker to operate.

Captain Rochus Lamare gave Salgaocar a shock lead in the first session. But, Congolese striker Mboyo Iyomi saved Churchill blushes with an appreciable long ranger midway into the second session.

The win helped Churchill (23 points) stay within touching distance of league leaders Dempo (27 points) and JCT (25 points). Salgaocar (5 points) were left cursing their luck and the referee yet again as they allowed another match to slip from what appeared like a firm grasp.

There was little, or nothing, in the initial minutes in the game as both teams passed aimlessly in the midfield. Churchill struggled more than they had done in the past in the I-League while Salgaocar could not work any set patterns.

Salgaocar’s first constructive move came in the 41st minute and resulted in a goal. Nicholas Rodrigues smartly put Rochus Lamare in the clear and the Salgaocar captain wasted no time in sending a powerful drive that caught the Churchill goalkeeper by surprise.

Churchill retaliated to that setback in typical fashion, but Mboyo Iyomi’s header brought the best out Salgaocar goalkeeper Milagrio Medeira.

Immediately after the change of ends, Ogba Kalu went close with a long ranger. The Salgaocar citadel, finally, succumbed to the sustained pressure in the 71st minute, with Mboyo’s power-packed volley crashing into the far corner of the net.