Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu: Goa’s Churchill Brothers FC Goa held hosts Chennai City FC to a 2-2 draw at Coimbatore’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, to remain unbeaten in both their opening games on the road, as the result meant that Quess East Bengal (QEB) are seated firmly on top of the league standings after their second successive victory against Shillong Lajong earlier in the day.
Spaniard Nestor Jesus opened the scoring for the home team as early as the ninth minute, before Serbian defender Nenad Novakovic equalised in the second half. Israil Gurung then put the Goa side ahead, taking advantage of a goalkeeping error only for Chennai’s second Spanish midfielder Sandro to draw level soon after.
Chennai’s Singaporean coach Akbar Nawas opted to start with Lourdusamy in the midfield for the Churchill game, in place of under-22 defender Tarif Akhand who had started their first game against the Indian Arrows which they won 4-1, obviously buoyed by that performance.
Churchill’s Romanian coach Petra Gigiu, on the other hand, made two changes to the side which started against defending champions Minerva Punjab. Israil Gurung and Vinil Poojary got a start in place of Lamgoulen Hangshing and Fredsan Marshall respectively.
Chennai burst into the lead early, when Pedro Manzi, the striker who registered the 12th Hero I-League’s first hattrick in the Arrows game, sent Nestor through outside the Chennai box on the left. Nestor drove inside and placed an angled left-footer neatly across the face of goal, beating a diving Churchill keeper James Kithan to find the back of the net.
Churchill and their Gambian forward Dawda Cessay in particular then tried to show some urgency to get the equaliser, but Chennai took the one-goal advantage into half-time. Two efforts by Cessay stood out in the half. One in the 22nd minute when a brilliant solo run found him on the edge of the box but his left-footed strike went wide and then just before the half-time whistle when he just missed the left upright with another powerful strike from inside the box.
The introduction of Clencio Pinto in place of the off-colour Vinil Poojary in the second half injected a lot of purpose and flair into the Churchill attack.
In the 51st minute, off a corner which resulted out of this purpose, Israil Gurung floated one near the first post and Serbian defender Nenad Novakovic rose to head in the equaliser.
Two more goals then followed in the space of five minutes. First in the 58th minute, after Dawda Cessay’s laborious effort along the right flank, Pinto got hold of the ball and floated in a low cross from just outside the box. A seemingly easy collection by the goalkeeper, saw the ball slip out of the grasp, and to the horror of Chennai’s custodian Kabir, Israil Gurung was at hand to slot in an easy goal.
Churchill’s lead was shortlived however as barely four minutes later, after a spell of sustained pressure by Chennai, Sandro got hold of the ball inside the Churchill box off a Romario Jesuraj cross, turned one defender with a deft body move and shot towards goal. It eluded James Kithan on the near post and went in after hitting Churchill defender Wayne Vaz’s chest.
Chennai did finish the game stronger but in the end, it was perhaps a fair result. Churchill have now collected two points from their first two games while Chennai have four points having played the same number of matches.