With the I-League into its business end, the talking point arguably has been Churchill Brother‘s dismal performances in the I-League. The defending champions find themselves starring at a possible relegation with just a handful of games left.
Nothing has gone right for defending I-League champions and the current Federation champions this season and the Red Machines find themselves at the bottom of the I-League table.
One of the major reasons behind Churchill’ s struggle has been the lack of stability in the team thanks to the hire and fire policy with respect of foreigners. Churchill Brothers have had as many as nine foreign players don the I-League jersey for them this season – ten if one includes Eurípedes Amoreirinha who was released just before the I-League began. The team management didn’t give appropriate time for the foreign players to set in and have no doubt suffered from the instability. The foreign players are the lynchpin of most of the I-League teams and barring Shabana and Wolfe , both of who joined late, Churchill haven’t benefited from their foreign players. The team at the moment is playing with three foreign players as Cristian Lagos has left the club due to personal problems.
Mariano Dias, the coach and Subhash Bhowmick, technical director are not is sync with each other and this has added to Churchill’ s troubles. Dias even went on record saying that he was only responsible for the performance in Federation Cup and the AFC Cup and that the I-League was not his responsibility. The lack of coordination between Bhowmick and Dias has hurt the club and the players have found it difficult to adapt to a playing style or philosophy as they have to switch between the two. Bhowmick’ s irregularity at training sessions due to his wife’ s ill-health have compounded their miseries. The atmosphere in the dressing room is not good and that has also affected the performances on the field. In addition, frequent intervention from club owner Churchill Alemao in team selection has also played a part in destabilizing the team.
Defense has been Churchill’ s Achilles’ heel all season and the club has conceded 34 goals in 21 matches, second highest behind Rangdajied United. All I-League clubs have a foreign central defender to lead the defense and Churchill have definitely missed the service of a quality center back this season. First Hameed Adisope and now Daniell Zeleny have failed to inspire confidence while Al Sebai in between was disposed off in a couple of games. Dharmaraj Ravanan has looked a pale shadow of the defender he was last season while both Denzil Franco and Raju Yumnam have been patchy.
Churchill Brothers have their task cut out in the remaining three games of the season. The club faces East Bengal, United SC and Salgaocar but fortunately all three games are in Goa and the Red Machines will be looking to take advantage of this and earn all nine points at stake in the three matches.
On the field , Churchill Brothers lost 4-2 to Khalid Jamil mentored Mumbai FC. Taking advantage of some sloppy defending by Churchill Brothers Yusif Yakubu scored twice in the first fifteen minutes to give Mumbai FC a 2-0 lead. Churchill refused to go down easily and pulled one back in the 36th minute when Asley Fernandes’ shot took a deflection off Sandesh Jhinghan and went into the goal. The Red Machines pulled one back at the hour mark through Jaison Vales with Anthony Wolfe grabbing the assist. The evergreen Yusif Yakubu completed his hat-trick in the 63rd minute to hand the Essel backed side the lead once again and midfielder Sehnaj Singh put the result beyond doubt when his powerful strike from 35 yards out gave Lalit Thapa no chance. The win confirms Mumbai FC’ s presence in the I-League next season.
East Bengal won three consecutive matches in I-League for the first time since November 2012 and gave their tile hopes a major lift when they beat a lackluster Pune FC side 3-1. East Bengal started with the intent of winning and Chidi Edeh gave them the lead when he slotted home a cross from Ryuji Sueoka. Stung by a goal, Pune FC went on the offensive with Gabriel Fernandes in particular troubling the home side. Ryuji Sueoka set up Lalrindika Ralte on the stroke of the half time and the former Churchill Brothers winger converted an easy tap in to give his side a 2-0 advantage. Substitute Pavlovic looked sharp and pulled a goal back for the Red Lizards in the 58th minute but a thunderous strike from Ralte put the match beyond the visitors. The win takes the Lal-Hould brigade closer to the top while Pune dropped a spot to sixth spot.
United Sports club played a goalless draw with city rivals Mohun Bagan in an afternoon kick off at Kalyani. The encounter for the most of the 90 minutes failed to catch the attention of the spectators and was played at a slow pace. Christopher Chizoba was a bright spot on the park in the first 45 minutes but failed to score despite being in a good position a couple of times. The most notable action of the second half came in the 88th minute when Bagan were denied a penalty as Dhanachandra Singh appeared to have handled the ball inside the box. The match ended in a goal-less draw leaving both teams in the relegation zone.
Penn Orji inspired Mohammedan Sporting gave their survival hopes a major boast when they picked up all three points against fellow relegation contenders Rangdajied United at the Salt Lake stadium. Ranti Martins scored his eighth goal in seventh match for Rangdajied United when he fired his side into the lead in the 12th minute after a pinpoint cross from David Ngaihte caused a scramble inside the Mohammedan box. Following the goal, the home side went in search of the equalizer and was rewarded in the 32nd minute when substitute Taro Hasegawa leveled the proceedings. Things didn’t change in the second half either as Mohammedan continued to dominate with Josimar hitting the post and Penn going close. Mohammedan went ahead in the 64th minute when Luciano Sabrosa converted from the spot after Manish Maithani was brought down inside the box. Rangdajied United stepped up the paddle following the goal and the home side endured some nervy moments towards the end to earn earn a much needed win.
Salgaocar’ title hopes were dashed as they played out a enthralling 3-3 draw with Sporting Club de Goa. Riding on the impressive form of strikers Darryl Duffy and Dudu Omagbemi, Salgaocar raced ahead to a 2-0 lead inside the first eleven minutes with Duffy opening the account through a penalty and Dudu adding the second from a Francis Fernandes cross. Sporting maintained the composure despite going down by two goals and equalized in the first half itself. Ogba Kalu and Boima Karpeh scored the goals with Rowlin Borges and Beevan D’Mello notching up the assists. Sporting surged ahead in the second half and finally got the goal they were hunting for in the 73rd minute through Rowlin Borges. It seemed Sporting Clube were headed for victory but substitute Bikash Jairu ensured that Salgaocar left the field with at least a point after he tapped home a cross from Mathew Foschini.