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Rediff.com  » Sports » Churchill jumps to top with 3-2 win

Churchill jumps to top with 3-2 win

Last updated on: March 15, 2009 19:16 IST

Just when Mumbai FC and Churchill Brothers looked destined for a division of spoils, that man Odafa Onyeka Okolie struck the matchwinner in the 85th minute to help his side to a nerve wracking 3-2 victory in a 19th round I-League encounter at the Cooperage on Sunday.

The win keeps the perennial bridesmaids on course for the prestigious title.

But it was man of the match and left-wing back Robert Lalthamla who wrote the winning script for the Goan side by scoring with a sizzling free kick in the 27th minute after K Anees had put the home side in front with a stunning volley in the 15th minute.

Naoba Singh then got his head to another Robert free kick in the 56th minute that put Churchill ahead.

But the latter neutralised the advantage by conceding a self-goal in the 85th minute.

But Odafa, who was a passenger for most of the match and also in woeful touch, conjured a goal out of nothing, pouncing on a loose ball and sending a weak grounder to the near corner leaving a perplexed Kalyan Chaubey standing like a wax statuette.

This took his tally in the competition to 22 goals.

Mumbai FC could have restored parity in the dying minutes of the game but three of their shots were blocked by desperate Churchill defenders and then substitute Alex Ambrose whizzed his try from hand shaking distance, wide of the far post.

The win takes Churchill Brothers to the top of the table with 39 points, the same as Sporting Clube de Goa, who drew 1-1 with East Bengal in Goa.

But the Varca club have a huge goal difference advantage.

It was a match that Mumbai FC did not deserve to lose as they rattled the visitors with some fast paced attacks in the first session and also in the dying minutes of the second half when they rallied strongly for the elusive equaliser which did not come.

They also mangaged to hold the rampaging Odafa, who had a fierce header go wide in the eighth minute, in check.

But the pressure for a win at all costs told on the Zoran Djordjevic-coached outfit and the Goans could not settle down to a cohesive game.

And with Odafa not at his best and unable to shake off his determined markers, Churchill Borthers could not make headway for most of the match.

But with the Nigerian springing to life just when it mattered, the visitors got the matchwinner that will keep them on course for the title.

Mario Rodrigues in Mumbai