Chennai City FC stumble against Churchill Brothers FC to give East Bengal FC an outside chance to snatch the I-League trophy away from the table toppers. Chennai goes into the final day with 40 points, while the Kolkata giants are on 39.
At the other end of the table, Shillong Lajong’s relegation was confirmed after a loss against Aizawl FC, while Gokulam Kerala FC managed to win one of the two Gift Raikhan derbies to avoid relegation.
Churchill fights on the beaches to push Chennai’s title bid to the final day
FULL TIME: Churchill Brothers FC 3-2 Chennai City FC
CHURCHILL BROTHERS: Willis Plaza (38’, 71’), Remi (50’); CHENNAI CITY: Sandro (29’), Pedro Manzi (69’ [P])
With the urgency to clinch their maiden I-League title, the visitors started with a safety-first approach. A foul by Wayne Vaz on Nestor Gordillo earned the visitors a free kick at the top of the box. Sandro’s free-kick took a wicked deflection off Plaza and the ball looped into the net to give Chennai the lead in the 29th minute.
Churchill Brothers FC Goa went on the attack in regular intervals through Nicholas Fernandes and Khalid Aucho. Their efforts soon yielded a result when Willis Plaza successfully tapped in Nicholas Fernandes’s cross in the 38th minute as the first half ended with the scoreboard locked at 1-1.
The second half began with Chennai pressing hard for the lead but it was again Churchill Brothers who turned around the game on its head. Following a clever interception, Churchill took the lead soon through Christ Remi taking the scoreline to 2-1 in favor of the hosts.
Owing to a handball by Wayne Vaz inside the penalty box, Chennai City FC were awarded a penalty. Pedro Manzi made no mistake to restore the parity for Chennai City FC in the 69th minute.
Churchill cut their joy short having scored the eventual winner within two minutes, as Plaza notched up his 20th goal of the season.
Chennai City FC is on 40 points with a must-win final game against Minerva Punjab to seal their maiden title. Churchill Brothers will travel to Aizawl to consolidate their third spot as they are on 34 points.
Enrique on song as East Bengal close in on Chennai City
FULL TIME: Minerva Punjab 0-1 East Bengal FC
EAST BENGAL: Enrique Esqueda (75’)
East Bengal are hot on the heels of Chennai City FC after a 1-0 win over Minerva Punjab FC at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Panchkula.
The defending champions enjoyed a good spell of possession in the opening exchanges, but East Bengal presed back as most of the game was played in the midfield.
East Bengal, with an urgency for a win, pressed high only to be thwarted by the organized defense of Minerva. Esqueda, Santos, and Ralte had come close to scoring, but some great keeping by Arshdeep – and the woodwork – ensured that the first 45 minutes of the game remained goalless.
The second half began with on the same note, however a poor clearance saw Enrique Esqueda grabbing the opportunity to find the back of the net in the 75th minute.
The game, thereafter, saw both the teams playing on an attacking note, with the former champions aiming for an equaliser, while East Bengal hoped to seal the game. In the end, the visitors were happy to eke out a close win.
East Bengal is just one point shy of table toppers Chennai City FC. Both teams would play their last league game on March 9. The Red & Golds will travel to Gokulam Kerala FC, while Chennai City FC will host defending champions Minerva Punjab. Both these games are slated for a 5 pm kick-off.
Kashmir’s quest for the crown ends at Jawaharlal Nehru
FULL TIME: Real Kashmir FC 1-2 East Bengal FC
REAL KASHMIR: Katebe (67’ [P]); EAST BENGAL: Esqueda (20’), Jaime Santos (43’)
Earlier in the week, East Bengal ended debutants Real Kashmir’s title challenge with a 2-1 win at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, New Delhi.
The Red and Golds got off to a swift start, keeping large bouts of possession in the opening exchanges. The opening goal came in the 20th minute. Danmawia curling in a cross at the far post and Mexican forward Enrique Esqueda to nodded home.
Eight minutes later, Real Kashmir was dealt with a blow when Kofi Tetteh
East Bengal capitalized on advantage and doubled their lead minutes before the half-time whistle. Jamie Santos Colado played Esqueda through inside the Kashmir area before the latter crossed it back to the Spaniard, who volleyed it home to make it 2-0.
Despite being down to 10 men, Kashmir came out with a lot of initiative in the second half and got a chance to get back in the game. Rakshit Daggar brought Bazzie Armand down inside his own area and the referee pointed to the spot. Aaron Katebe made no mistake as he slotted it home from the spot.
Real Kashmir gaffer David Robertson brought on striker Gnohere Krizo in the last 10 minutes, hoping to draw level with a two-pronged attack. East Bengal held on to their slender lead, bringing the Snow Leopards’ I-League title hopes to an end.
Real Kashmir travel to NEROCA FC on the final day, but the pending match against Minerva Punjab is yet to be announced.
Shillong Lajong relegated to 2nd division
FULL TIME: Aizawl FC 4-1 Shillong Lajong FC
AIZAWL: Kromah 40’ [P], (83’), Mapuia (81’), Isak (89’); SHILLONG LAJONG: D. Lyngdoh (90+3’)
Shillong Lajong were relegated from the I-League after a 4-1 thumping at the hands of Aizawl FC at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Aizawl. This ends Lajong’s run at the top flight after seven seasons.
The hosts dominated the proceedings from the start, but it was only in the 28th minute that the Lajong goal was threathened. An Isak cross from the right saw a header from Hmingthan Mawia blocked by Kenstar Kharsong in the Shillong defence.
However, in the 40th minute, Kenstar was adjudged to have brought down Kromah inside the box and referee pointed to the spot. Kromah converted without fuss. 1-0 at the break.
The second half began as the first with Aizawl dominating the youngsters. The match was played with a show of good sportsmanship and the first booking of the game was shown to Aizawl’s Paul in the 75th minute.
The lead was doubled in the 81st minute as Isak’s ball from the right fell invitingly for Mapuia to head home the game-killing goal. However, two minutes later a poor backpass was poached by Kromah who made it 3-0. Finally, Isak got his name on the scoresheet with a solo run along the box before unleashing a shot from the top of the box.
Shillong had something to show in the third minute of injury time when Donbok Lungdoh broke away from his marker to finish past Gurpreet in the left corner.
Aizawl will welcome Churchill Brothers in their final game, while Lajong will hope to finish their I-League adventure on a high against Mohun Bagan at home.
Bagan lose more ground after loss
FULL TIME: Mohun Bagan AC 1-3 Indian Arrows
MOHUN BAGAN: Azharuddin Mallick (17’); INDIAN ARROWS Abhijeet Sarkar (28’), Rahul KP (74’), Rohit Danu (90+5)
The home team went ahead in the 17th minute through Azharuddin Mallick after a move initiated by Sony Norde, saw the Haitian play off Henry Kisseka and cross from the left of the Arrows box. Kisseka missed his shot, but Mallick was at hand to slot it home.
The Arrows hit back in the 28th minute when an Anwar Ali free-kick was fumbled by keeper Ricardo Cardozo, before Abhijeet Sarkar struck off the rebound.
Mohun Bagan coach Khaleed Jamil threw in Cameroonian striker Dipanda Dicka and Egyptian playmaker Omar Elhussieny, but it was the Indian Arrows who went ahead in the 74th minute. Boris found space on the right and found an onrushing Rahul KP with the cutback who produced a composed finish.
Arrows secured the three points in injury time when Cordozo came out of his area to clear the ball with a header. Instead the ball fell straight to Rohit Danu, who slotted from distance into an empty goal.
Mohun Bagan travels to Shillong Lajong in the final day after a forgetful I-League campaign.
Gokulam avoids relegation after the second Gift Raikhan derby
FULL TIME: Gokulam Kerala FC 2-1 NEROCA FC
GOKULAM KERALA: Daniel Addo (46’), Marcus Joseph (82’); NEROCA FC: Felix Chidi (23’)
The Gift Raikhan derby saw Gokulam Kerala FC – who was winless in 12 games carved out a 2-1 win over NEROCA FC at the EMS Corporation Stadium, Kozhikode. The victory steered Gokulam clear of the relegation zone.
The game, which began at a slow pace, came to life when Malem latched on to a ball on the channel and made a run towards the box. Japanese winger Katsumi Yusa made a run inside the box but failed to connect with the cross. Felix Chidi was at hand to stab home his seventh goal of the campaign.
From that point on, Gokulam were stirred into action with Marcus Joseph at the thick of things. A snapshot in the 28th minute brought about a good save from Lalit Thapa. Two minutes the two were at it again, when another shot powerful, brought a reaction save from Thapa. Again in the 33rd minute, a strike from outside the box produced another save from the veteran goalie.
Gokulam did get the equalizer at the start of the second half. Daniel Addo gathered the ball in the center of midfield and unleashed a well-placed right-footer to beat Thapa all ends up. 1-1 at the start of the second half.
In the 52nd minute, Emmanuel rounded keeper Thapa but missed the target from inside the box wide on the left. He failed to connect again a minute later after an Arjun Jayaraj cross found him.
Gokulam were not to be denied their first win in 13 games in the 82nd minute. Daniel Addo found Marcus with a lovely ball from his own half. The Trinidadian was one-on-one with Thapa and he placed the ball over the keeper register his sixth goal and give his team the vital three points.
The win takes the Gokulam side to 17 points on ninth place – one above Minerva Punjab FC owing to a better head-to-head record.
Gokulam will welcome East Bengal in the final match, while NEROCA will host Real Kashmir.
Aizawl’s comeback leaves a bad taste in Raikhan’s mouth
FULL TIME: Gokulam Kerala FC 1-3 Aizawl FC
GOKULAM KERALA: Marcus Joseph (9’); AIZAWL FC: Paul Ramfanzauva (83’), Mawpuia (88’), Alfred Kromah (90+6’)
Earlier in the week, Aizawl FC registered left it late to secure a 3-1 come from behind win against hosts Gokulam Kerala FC. The Gokulam gaffer, Gift Raikhan, was facing his former side with the knowledge that a loss for either side will put them in a spot of bother regarding relegation.
In the must-win game for both the teams, the home side took to the attack right from the start and were rewarded in the ninth minute. A free-kick from Marcus Joseph found its way straight into the goal giving the home team the lead early into the game.
Aizawl responded sharply but some good goalkeeping from Gokulam Kerala FC’s Shibin Raj ensured that the visitors did the equalizer. The first half came to an end with Gokulam Kerala FC leading 1-0.
gift blunder by Shibin Raj was pounced upon by Lalkhawpuimawia. He passed
The visitors changed gears and went ahead in the 88thminute when a through ball from Kromah was collected by Mawpuia who made no mistake.
A rattled Gokulam tried to make a comeback but Kromah put the final nail in coffin with a goal in added time.