Churchill Brothers regained the Durand Cup after a gap of one year by overcoming a spirited challenge from defending champions Prayag United to script a 5-4 tie breaker win at a packed Ambedkar stadium in New Delhi. With this win, Churchilol Broithers have won the third oldest football tournament in the world for the third time in five years. Herea��s a review of the entire tournament:

Qualifying Round:

The qualifying round had 16 teams with the top two teams vying for a place in the quarterfinal league. Indian Air Force and Border Security Force (BSF) earned the right to take on the big guns with hard fought wins over CRPF and Assam Rivals respectively in the finals.

Round 1
26-Sep-2011: Assam Green 0-0,1-3 Bhowanipore Club, Kolkata
26-Sep-2011: Border Security Force 1-1,5-3 Jammu&Kashmir Bank

Round 2
24-Sep-2011: Delhi United 2-0 MEG, Bangalore
24-Sep-2011: Assam Rifles 5-1 State Bank of India, Hyderabad
25-Sep-2011: Shahdara Club 0-0,3-4 Indian Air Force
25-Sep-2011: Assam Regimental Centre, Shillong 2-1 State Bank of Travancore
27-Sep-2011: Army Juniors 1-2 CRPF
27-Sep-2011: Punjab Police 0-1 Indian Navy
28-Sep-2011: Bhowanipore Club, Kolkata 2-4 Border Security Force

28-Sep-2011: Delhi United 1-2 Assam Rifles
29-Sep-2011: Indian Air Force 2-1 Assam Regimental Centre, Shillong
29-Sep-2011: CRPF 2-1 Indian Navy
30-Sep-2011: Tata Football Academy 0-2 Border Security Force

01-Oct-2011: Indian Air Force 1-0 CRPF
03-Oct-2011: Assam Rifles 3-4 Border Security Force [penalties]

Quarterfinal League stage:

Group 1:

Prayag United SC, Salgaocar SC, Border Security Force (BSF)

Arguably the Group of Death which pitted two heavyweights- Salgaocar SC and Prayag United against each other, the third being qualifiers BSF. Salgaocar pipped BSF 1-0 in their first game while Prayag got the better of BSF 2-0 in their first outing. The match between Prayag United and Salgaocar SC was going to be crucial as the winner would make it to the semi-final. Prayag though needed only a draw to go through due to a superior goal average.

That crucial game started on a cautious note as both the teams looked to get the measure of each other in the first session. At half time the match was goalless and as things stood, Prayag would inch their way to the semi-finals at the expense of Salgaocar who had just won the Federation Cup. In the second half Prayag sealed the fate of the defending I-League champions with two quick goals from former Salgaocar hitman Yusif Yakubu and Gouranga Biswas. First a powerful cross from Malsawmtuluanga was headed in by Yakubu while Gouranga Biswasa�� onrushing header went in after another low cross by Malawsawmtuluanga.A� The two goal deficit meant that Salgaocar had to score three more times to keep alive their semi-final hopes. But that was not to be as the Kolkata side held on to record a much deserved win and take the first semi-final spot.

Prayag in action against Pune FC in the semifinal

04-Oct-2011: Prayag United SC 2-0 Border Security Force
07-Oct-2011: Salgaocar SC 1-0 Border Security Force
09-Oct-2011: Prayag United SC 2-0 Salgaocar SC


Group 2:

Shillong Lajong FC, Sikkim United FC, Indian Air Force

It was clear that Indian Air Force were the whipping boys in this group and the toss up would be between the two clubs from football crazy north east- Sikkim United and Shillong Lajong FC. As expected both the north east teams easily beat qualifiers Indian Air force to set up a crucial clash. United Sikkim due to their better goal difference needed only a draw to get through. However, the inexperience of the United Sikkim team came to the fore as they were outclasses by their north east opponents 3-1 in a game that had two sending offa��s, one from each side. Christopher Chozoba and James Giblee gave Shillong a 2-0 lead inside the first 43 minutes. However at the stroke of half time, India striker Sushil Kumar Singh headed in a Renedy Singh cross to reduce the deficit. However Lajong put the result beyond doubt when Chozoba got his second of the day after volleying home from close range.

04-Oct-2011: Shillong Lajong FC 2-1 Indian Air Force
07-Oct-2011: Sikkim United FC 3-0 Indian Air Force
09-Oct-2011: Shillong Lajong FC 3-1 Sikkim United FC

Action from the final


Group 3:

Pune FC, Air India, ONGC

Pune FC started on a disappointing note after a lackluster 1-1 draw with second divisioners ONGC. Air Indiaa��s 3-0 win over the Oilmen with a goal from Soccor Velho and a brace from Henry Ezeh made the Air India-Pune FC Mumbai derby all the more crucial. A draw was enough for Air India to go through while Pune FC needed an outright win to get to the semis. In that crucial game, Air India took the lead after Sandesh Gadkare gave the Airmen a rollicking start. But Pune FC equalized through the boots of Karma T. and then scored the winner through former Mahindra midfielder Paresh Shivalkar. With that win Pune FC made history by qualifying for their first ever Durand Cup semifinals.

Churchill team with the trophy

05-Oct-2011: Pune FC 1-1 ONGC
08-Oct-2011: ONGC 0-3 Air India
10-Oct-2011: Pune FC 2-1 Air India


Group 4:

Churchill Brothers, Mohammedan Sporting, Army XI

Churchill routed Army XI In their first game with the floodgates opening from the very third minute after Beto scored with a superb drive from just outside the box. Ten minutes later a superb cross from India winger Steven Dias was headed in by Henri Arnaud to double the Churchill lead. In the 18th minute, Steven was at it again after his low cross was angled in by Bineesh Balan who got his second eight minutes later. The rout was completed just before half time after Henria��s snapshot wet in after he was beautifully fed in by Lenny Rodrigues.

After Mohammedan Sporting pipped Army XI in their match it was down to the game between them and Churchill Brothers to decide a spot in the semis. Churchill Brothers made sure of their sixth successive semi finals appearance after putting it across Mohammedan Sporting 2-0 with goals from Beto and Lalrindika Ralte.

Churchill coach celebrating with the players

05-Oct-2011: Mohammedan Sporting Club 1-0 Army Red
08-Oct-2011: Churchill Brothers SC 5-0 Army Red
10-Oct-2011: Mohammedan Sporting Club 0-2 Churchill Brothers SC


The Semifinals:

In the semi-finals, Prayag United took on Pune FC while Churchill Brothers took on Shillong Lajong. In the first semifinal, Prayag United scored an easy 2-0 win over the Red Lizards. Lukram James Singh gave Prayag the lead in the 29th minute after heading in a corner. Pune FC then had their young goalkeeper Shahinlal to thank after the custodian pulled off some brilliant saves to deny Prayag their second goal. Pune FC searched for the equalizer in the second half and introduced some fresh pair of legs in the form of Paresh Shivalkar and Jegh Williamson. Their search for the elusive goal made them push bodies in attack leaving them vulnerable at the back leading to Prayaga��s second goal which was scored by Joshimar off a swift counter attack. Prayag were through to their second successive final.

In the second semifinal, Churchill Brothers showed their supremacy by completely outclassing Shillong Lajong 4-1. Churchill Brothers surged ahead in the 25th minute after a Steven Dias shot deflected and went inside the goal after Beto did some brilliant spadework. Three minutes later Betoa��s creative skills were once again showcased as he made space by going past three defenders and laying the ball to Henri who beat the onrushing keeper and brilliantly placed the ball into the net. Just before the break John Menyongor gave Lajong a lifeline when he headed in to reduce the margin for the team from the north east. However there was no comeback for Lajong as three minutes into the second half, a Steven Dias free kick was met by the diving header of Bineesh Balan who headed in from close range. Beto made the result safe after tapping in from close range in the 76th minute. Churchill however suffered a setback in the 55th minute when their Gabonese striker Henri was sent off for his second yellow card and would miss the final.


The Final:

Churchill celebrating their win

The final was a battle between the flair of Churchill Brothers and the resilience of Prayag United. Beto was surprisingly left out of the team that had the suspended Henri Arnaud missing. Churchilla��s depleted team gave Prayag United hope and they attacked right from the start when Denson Devdas shattered the cross piece with a towering header off a James Singh corner.

Churchill had their goalkeeper Felix Da��Souza to thank after the former Sporing Clube de Goa shot stopper made some stunning saves to deny Prayag the lead. On two occasions he made stunning saves off Arnab Mondal and Yusif Yakubu. In the second half too Felix denied Prayag on more than one occasion while N.D Opara missed a golden opportunity to score for Churchill against the run of play. The match finished goalless after regulation time and extra time and it was all down to who would keep their nerves in the tie breaker.

Prayag coach Sanjay Sen made a goalkeeping switch just before the tie breaker replacing Abhijit Mondal with Somnath Khara. In the tie breaker, Kayne Vincent, Mohammed Rafique, Bello Rasaq and Malsawmtluanga found the net for Prayag while Lalrindika Ralte, MP Zakeer, Bineesh Balan and Anton Kovacic scored for Churchill Brothers. The final kick for Prayag was hit wide by Yakubu leaving Denzil Franco with the chance to give Churchill the title which he did by sendidng Khara the wrong way and making it 5-4 in the tie breaker.

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