This had been the moment it had been waiting for. Down and out after sinking to a I-League low late last year, Churchill Brothers came up with an inspired performance to defeat the higher-ranked Sporting Clube de Goa 3-1 and lift its maiden Federation Cup at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Saturday night.
Currently at the bottom of the country’s premier league this season, Churchill dominated the final and even found a new hero in 19-year-old midfielder Alesh Shivdas Sawant who scored the second of the team’s three goals.
Churchill’s Punjab striker Balwant Singh had put the team ahead in the 21st minute while Egyption midfielder Abdel Hamid Shabana scored the other in the 64th.
Sporting’s consolation came from Victorino Fernandes in the 66th.
Sporting Clube may be riding high at No. 2 in the current I-League but it was Churchill which was in control all through in the championship’s first all-Goa final.
Churchill, led by international Lenny Rodrigues, was more enterprising, combined well, created more chances and should have won by a bigger margin.
It shut out Sporting’s striker Boima Karpeh nicely, marking him well and cutting off the stream of passes to him. At the other end, the Sporting defence looked shaky as left winger Sawant and forwards Balwant Singh and Anthony Wolfe got into the box without much resistance.
Five minutes after Shabana blasted a long-ranger over, Churchill went ahead in the 21st.
As a long ball from Denzil Franco came into the box, there was a bit of confusion between Joyner Lourenco and goalkeeper Ravi Kumar about who would handle it.
Balwant grabbed the chance, went around the goalkeeper and slotted it home. It was Balwant’s fourth goal of the Fed Cup.
Churchill found its next two minutes after resumption. An opportunistic Sawant, who had looked very promising with his raids on the left flank, came up with a neat finish of a rebound off goalkeeper Ravikumar from a Wolfe shot from close. It was his first goal in a major championship.
Egyptian midfielder Abdel Hamid Shabana made it 3-0 after a nice run after being fed by Thangjam Singh.
Churchill had two more chances to score. Shabana’s shot was blocked by defender Joyner near the goalline with the custodian out of place and a little later, an unmarked Wolfe sent the ball inches wide of the near post.
The result (final): Churchill Brothers 3 (Balwant Singh 21, Alesh Shivdas Sawant 47, Abdel Hamid Shabana 64) bt Sporting Clube de Goa 1 (Victorino Fernandes 67).