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I-League 2021-22: Churchill Brothers move into third while Gokulam open up a six-point lead

I-League 2021-22 Churchill Brothers vs Roundglass Punjab FC
Source: AIFF Media

Churchill Brothers FC Goa – 2 (Bryce Brian Miranda 25’, Gnohere Krizo 85’)
RoundGlass Punjab FC – 1 (Kurtis Owen Guthrie 55’)

Churchill Brothers FC Goa defeated RoundGlass Punjab 2-1 in the Hero I-League on Tuesday, here, at the Kalyani Stadium. With this win, they have moved into the top 3 on the table. They are now just seven points behind top-placed Gokulam Kerala. Bryce Miranda and Gnohere Krizo were on the target for Churchill Brothers while Kurtis Owen Guthrie netted the lone goal for his team.

Churchill Brothers and RoundGlass Punjab enjoy dominating the midfield, and it was no different in this encounter. Both teams came out firing early on, looking to take control of the game by gaining possession of the ball.

Churchill Brothers’ most significant opportunity came as early as the fourth minute when Bryce Miranda set up Komron Tursunov with a cross from the left side. However, the Tajikistani attacker did not make a good connection with the ball and squandered a clear chance. Churchill created another opportunity two minutes later when Miranda attempted a shot from close range, but it went wide.

RoundGlass Punjab also had several chances in the first 15 minutes of the game, including winning a free-kick and nearly converting it in the 12th minute, but Shilton Paul stood tall to deny their rivals any early lead.

Tursunov was gifted another chance to smash the ball into the net in the 19th minute but he was not able to deceive Jaspreet Singh after being set up by Ikechukwu Kenneth Ngwoke.

Miranda ultimately broke the deadlock by scoring the game’s opening goal in the 25th minute. He found the back of the net by nutmegging the rival goalkeeper after being set by Kingslee Fernandes via a brilliant chipped through ball from midfield.

After conceding the first goal, RoundGlass Punjab picked up the pace as they looked to counterattack more in pursuit of an equalizer. They were awarded a free kick in the 35th minute but it did not materialize into anything. Travis Paul Major found the back of the net for RoundGlass Punjab in the 37th minute but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Freddy Lallawmawma had a chance to tie the game in the 43rd minute, but he lost his balance when connecting with the ball, and his shot went wide.

During first-half stoppage time, Miranda sought to create a wonderful opportunity for his side from the left wing, but his effort was cleared from the six-yard box thanks to a brilliant block by Josef Charles Yarney.

Much like the first half, Churchill Brothers began the second half on the front foot as they looked to double their lead. Meanwhile, RoundGlass looked to alter their strategy as they named the first round of substitution in the 46th minute with Robin Singh replacing Ashish Jha on the field.

Churchill Brothers won a corner in the 50th minute and with that came another opportunity. Miranda took the shot and found Momo Cisse with a good pass but his header went wide.

Kurtis Owen Guthrie finally scored the equalizer for his side in the 55th minute. Robin Singh provided the assist as Guthrie notched up his 13th goal of the 2021-22 I-League campaign, equalling joint-top scorers Marcus Joseph and Luka Majcen in the race for the golden boot.

After blowing their advantage, the Churchill Brothers players appeared upset, and it showed in their performance. RoundGlass Punjab took advantage of this by ramping up their offensive efforts, with Robin Singh and Guthrie tearing apart the opposition team’s defence.

Cisse almost put his team ahead again with a free-kick in the 72nd minute, but a world-class save from Jaspreet Sigh denied him a well-deserved goal.

Churchill and RoundGlass increased their attack during the fourth quarter of the game in search of a winner with both sides creating several opportunities.

Finally, Gnohere Krizo scored a late goal in the 85th minute to put his team ahead. Despite the fact that Krizo slammed the ball into the net, it was Saurav Mandal who put in the most effort as he sprinted down the right side with the ball and outplayed several RoundGlass players before passing it to Krizo.

The Punjab players were hyperactive on the field in the final 10 minutes of the game, searching for an equaliser that never came. As a result of the loss, they have dropped to fourth place on the standings.

AIFF Media

I-League 2021-22 Gokulam Kerala FC vs NEROCA FC
Source: AIFF Media

Gokulam Kerala 4 (Thahir Zaman 20′, 48′, Jourdaine Fletcher 52′, Sreekuttan VS 90+4′)

Gokulam Kerala’s invincible streak continued as the league leaders thrashed NEROCA FC 4-0, here at the Naihati Stadium. Clinical finishing coupled with opposition goof-ups helped Gokulam extend their lead at the top of the table.

Top met bottom as the first half got off to a very bright start. Gokulam Kerala were favourites for an easy win but NEROCA FC had other plans and matched Gokulam’s desire to win. The league leaders were dealt an unfortunate injury blow as Ahmed Razeek limped off the pitch and was replaced by Sreekuttan VS inside the opening 20 minutes.

The concern did not last for a long time as Gokulam took the lead three minutes after the forced substitution. Skipper Sharif Mohammad did well in midfield and managed to play the ball to Emil Benny. A diagonal ball from Benny was meant to reach the left flank but was intercepted by NEROCA defender Abdul Salam. However, Salam’s header, intended to go towards his goalkeeper, landed perfectly for Thahir Zaman, who beat Shubham Dhas to the ball, and slotted home the opener.

Just a minute later, Gokulam came close to doubling their advantage as Sreekuttan whipped a powerful cross in from the right. Jourdaine Fletcher received it but could not control it as it came off his calf and went out for a goal-kick.

On the counter, Sergio Mendi played a delightful flick towards Davis Kamanga following which the Zimbabwean was brought down unfairly by Sharif Mohammad near the edge of the box. From the resulting freekick, Mendi tested Rakshit Dagar as the Spaniard unleashed a powerful low shot away from the wall, towards the keeper’s side. Dagar went down quickly to palm the ball away to safety.

Minutes later, Sweden Fernandes also tried his luck from range but his effort lacked power and was saved as NEROCA finished the half with more shots than Gokulam but still trailed by a goal.

Minutes into the second half, Gokulam bagged their second of the evening as Zaman bagged his second of the game. Benny was at it again as he found Fletcher unmarked on the left flank. The Jamaican played an inch-perfect cross into the path of Zaman, who carefully tapped it in with his first touch.

Before NEROCA could catch a break, Gokulam struck again, this time after being given the opportunity to score an easy goal. A back-pass from Lallenmang Sitlhou came to Dhas. The NEROCA keeper was complacent on the ball as Fletcher pounced on it before Dhas could clear. Ultimately, the ball was buried in the back of the net by Fletcher who was vigilant inside NEROCA’s defensive third to make it three.

Zaman was hungry for a hat-trick and came close to bagging one when Sreekuttan played it in. Before Zaman could pounce, the pass was intercepted and cleared.

Thirteen minutes from time, Gokulam almost replicated the move that led to the second goal. Fletcher whipped the ball in from the left, again, towards Zaman. However, this time Dhas was alert and did well to block the ball well before it could reach Zaman.

A minute before ninety, Gokulam substitute Zodingliana rattled the crossbar from the edge of the box. The effort was on target but it was put onto the bar by a faint touch from Dhas.

Gokulam did get their fourth, deep into second-half stoppage time. Sreekuttan, who had played a fantastic game after coming on in the first half, got his name on the scoresheet after turning Sitlhou inside out and then slotting the ball in at the near-post.

Another game and another victory for Gokulam Kerala saw them go six points clear of Mohammedan SC, at the top of the table with one hand already on the trophy. NEROCA FC, on the other hand have now extended their winless run to seven games and will stay at the bottom of the table, three points behind Rajasthan United.

AIFF Media

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