10-man Churchill Brothers fought valiantly but had to be content with a 1-1 draw against Mahindra United in the last of the quarter-final group league matches at the Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Reisangmi Vashum beat Mahindra goalkeeper Mahindra United Amit Nandi as early as the eighth minute to give Churchill the lead. Churchill Brothers held on to the lead till the 75th minute, when Edeh Chidi, who came in as a substitute in the 56th, headed home K Ajayan's floater from the left.
Despite the draw, Churchill Brothers topped Group A with seven points while Mahindra United followed them to the semi-finals with five. The Goan team will meet Sporting Clube de Goa in the last four stage on Friday with Mahindra United facing JCT a day earlier.
Churchill Brothers could consider themselves unlucky as they were done in by referee Pratap Singh. They were down to 10 men 27 minutes into the game after Gourmangi Singh was shown the red card.
Mahindra United striker Sushil Singh attempted a header and Gourmangi's right foot accidentally hit him on the face.
The manpower shortage though hardly affected Churchill Brothers' rhythm and they could have had their second, had not the referee chose to take centrestage once again. Vashum sped down the right and was brought down by Harpreet Singh inside the box in the 39th minute, but the Services referee chose to turn a blind eye.
They did get a penalty after Okolie Odafa was bodychecked by Justine Stephen, but the Churchill Brothers skipper's shot from the spot crashed on to the woodwork in the 65th minute.
Mahindra United qualified for the semi-finals after Mumbai FC went down to Army XI 0-1 in the group's other match.