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Mohun Bagan Stutter to a Win Against Churchill Brothers in Their I-League Opener

Sunday, 8 January 2017|Abhranil Roy
Minnows Churchill Brothers went down fighting against the mighty Mohun Bagan in the I League opener at the Barasat Stadium today.

Churchill Brothers went down fighting against the mighty Mohun Bagan in the I-League opener at the Barasat Stadium on Sunday. The Mariners somehow registered a win thanks to a superb Balwant Singh header, but other than that, had little to show for during the entire 90 minutes.


Sanjay Sen’s team went into the game with a depleted squad, as the likes of Sony Norde, Jeje and Eduardo Perreira are still some days away from full match fitness. Churchill on the other hand  fielded an all-India squad and almost made the Federation Cup Champions pay for their lackadaisical gameplay.


The visitors started with a spring in their step, with the likes of Clifford and Brandon creating pressure on the Bagan defence. Neither of the teams could fashion a clear-cut chance though, and eventually the game settled down to players jostling for possession in the middle of the park. 


In the 28th minute, Pritam Kotal found some space on the right hand side of the midfield and delivered a superb cross into the box. Forward Balwant Singh out-jumped Keegan, who was marking him and put it past the frailling arms of Priyant, Churchill’s goalkeeper. Mohun Bagan took the lead, perhaps undeservedly.


After the goal, the Bengal giants started asserting their dominance and took control of the game. Katsumi Yusa took centre stage and they played a number of dangerous passes outside the opposition box, albeit an end product. Priyant made number of saves, especially from the impressive Darryl Duffy. Towards the end of the half, Sehnaj Singh received an yellow card and the home side were let off the hook after a powerful shot from Brandon Fernandes missed the target by inches. At Half time, the score read 1-0 in favour of Mohun Bagan.


After the break, the Calcutta club tried to take control once again but this time, Churchill refused to cede control. The Goan club finally came out of the blocks and expressed themselves, despite not creating a lot of chances. Subhashish received a yellow card for a mindless challenge, while Duffy and Yusa combined to create an opening upfront but surprisingly, fluffed the chance to double the lead. 


On the hour mark, Clifford Miranda went off for Anthony D’ Souza in what was the first substitution of the game. Two minutes later, Subhashish was given his marching orders after he put in a reckless challenge on Seriton near the box. Mohun Bagan had to play the last half an hour of the game with 10 men.


Sensing the momentum was with them, Churchill kept hustling and hounding for the equaliser. Mohun Bagan did garner a few chances, but they either wasted them or the move was cancelled due to offside. Sanjay Sen ringed in some changes as well, taking off Pranay Das and Balwant Singh for Kean Lewis and Pronay Haldar respectively. 


With Prabir on the pitch, the Mariners started finding their feet once again as they attacked with gusto and defended in an organized manner. However, Churchill kept pressing and almost scored in the 85th minute as Colaco’s powerful free kick missed Debjit’s goal by miles. In the 87th minute, Darryl Duffy was substituted by Bikramjit Singh, who was obviously bought on to see the game out. With 4 minutes added on at the end of the stipulated time, Mohun Bagan managed to keep their goal mouth shut and sealed all three points.


It was a nervy performance from the 2014 I League champions and questions will be raised about the manner in which they repeatedly surrendered control to Churchill. However, their fans will be pleased to start the campaign with a hard-fought win and will be pleased with the character showed by the team after going a man down. Overall, it was a job well done.

Photo Credit : I-League Media