Churchill Brothers secured its second I-League title after playing out a 1-1 draw against Kolkata giant Mohun Bagan on Tuesday.
Playing in front of its home supporters (including club owner Churchill Alemao) at the Tilak Maidan ground, the Goan side started nervously and India international C.S. Sabeeth gave Mohun Bagan the lead in the 27th minute. The Kerala-born striker capped a superb solo run to cut inside the box and beat custodian Shilton Paul from close range.
The first half was a scrappy affair and only the introduction of Afghanistan international Balal Arezou spurred the home side back to life. India captain Sunil Chetri headed in the equaliser from a Bineesh Balan cross in the 72nd minute.
The Subhash Bhowmick-coached side has had one of the best defensive records in this year’s competition, conceding only 22 goals while scoring 53. The family-owned club, which had earlier won the I-League in 2008-09, has bagged the crown this season with a game to spare and goes home richer by Rs. 70 lakh.
“This time in Churchill, I never dreamt of winning the I-League. It was at best a middle-class family. But team work elevated us to the aristocrat level,” said Bhowmick, who had earlier won the National League title with East Bengal in 2002-03 and 2003-04.
“Prior to the season when I spoke about my players, people found it hard to recollect who most were. But here we are, the I-League champions.”
The final round of matches of the league will be held on May 12.
Points table (the top five):
1. Churchill Brothers 25-15-7-3- 52 -31; 2. Pune FC 25-15-4-6- 49 -25; 3. East Bengal 24-12-8-4- 44 -21; 4. Prayag United 25-12-5-8- 41 -18; 5. Dempo SC 25-10-7-8- 37 -11.
(Read as Team, played, won, drawn, lost, points, goal difference) .
Ranti Martins (Prayag) 25
Odafa Okolie (Bagan) 19
Edeh Chidi (East Bengal) 17
James Moga (Pune) 15
Roberto ‘Beto’ da Silva & Henri Antchouet (Churchill Brothers) 13