To meet Sporting Clube de Goa in summit clash

Riding on a dream start, Churchill Brothers beat Mohun Bagan 2-1 and entered its maiden Federation Cup final at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Thursday.

Goals from strikers Balwant Singh and Anthony Wolfe, both coming within the first 15 minutes, gave Churchill a perfect start, and it hung on to the lead to defeat the former 13-time champion from Kolkata. The title clash, on Saturday, will now be the championship’s first all-Goa final.

Churchill, coached by Mariano Dias, looked the hungrier side and was more dominant and composed. Egyptian midfielder Abdel Hamid Shababa and captain Lenny Rodrigues were in the thick of the action, setting up some smart moves for the front men.

Churchill also did a good job with set pieces, going ahead from a corner in the fourth minute.

An unmarked Balwant Singh, who has been very impressive in this tournament, met Thangjam Singh’s curling ball with a header, giving Bagan goalkeeper Shilton Paul no chance.

The early goal left the Bagan defence edgy and 10 minutes later, Aiborlang Khongjee brought down Balwant inside the box.

Anthony Wolfe, the 2006 World Cupper with Trinidad and Tobago, converted with ease to double the lead.

Churchill’s quick goals rattled Bagan. Clearly, the rhythm and flair was missing from its play, and it looked like an unsettled side running out of ideas.

Bagan’s star striker Okolie Odafa was not given the space to move freely inside the box. The Goan backline did a fine job, crowding and cutting off the angles.

Odafa eventually pulled one back, chesting a Denson Devadas pass and firing it past the goalkeeper.

Japanese playmaker Katsumi Yusa, a dazzling young player, was not his usual self in the first half hour. This was a day when the combinations failed to work.

Young Ram Malik, playing his first season for Bagan, looked very promising, though, on the right flank. His dangerous runs and crosses kept the Churchill defenders on their toes for nearly 70 minutes.

One such cross to a well-positioned Yusa appeared headed for goal, but Thangjam Singh cleared the danger in the nick of time.

Ten minutes into the second half, the Churchill goal had another close shave. Odafa’s cross found Chizoba Christoper and his attempt from just outside the box kissed the far post.

Later, Sporting Clube de Goa shrugged off a strong challenge from Dempo SC in an extra-time thriller and entered the final.

Australian striker Boima Jerry Karpeh gave Sporting Clube the lead in the 30th minute, which it held till the 73rd. But Dempo equalised through Australian Ozbey Tolgay.

Sporting Clube regained the lead six minutes later through a Arturo Garcia penalty, awarded after Haroon Fakhruddin Amiri’s handball inside the box following a corner.

But Amiri made amends soon after with a lovely goal from the left. The game then went into extra-time.

Sporting Clube took the lead once again through a penalty in the 105th minute — this time it turned out to be the match-winner — when Holicharan Nazary brought down Pratesh Shirodkar inside the area and Arutro Garcia gave it the finishing touch once again.

The results (semifinals): Churchill Brothers 2 (Balwant Singh 4, Anthony Wolfe 14-pen) bt Mohun Bagan 1 (Okolie Odafa 32); Sporting Clube de Goa 3 (Boima Jerry Karpeh 30, Arturo Garcia 83-pen & 105) bt Dempo SC, Goa 2 (Ozbey Tolgay 73, Haroon Fakhruddin Amiri 87) after extra-time.

Keywords: Federation Cup

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