Churchill Brothers registered a victory over league leaders Minerva Punjab FC as they won 2-1 in their I-League encounter at the Tilak Maidan, Vasco on Friday.

Back-to-back first-half goals from Koffi Mechac and Wayne Vaz put the Red Machines in an advantageous position before Minerva Punjab pulled one back through Kassim Aidara.

The result put a dent into Minerva’s title charge as they remained on 26 points with Neroca FC just two behind and Kingfisher East Bengal 6 points adrift. The Red Machines jumped to seventh place with 13 points.

Expectedly, there were some changes for Churchill Brothers as fatigue and tiredness could be the reason why coach Alfred Fernandes brought in a fresh pair of legs in the form of Bektur Talgat, Nicholas Fernandes and Harshad Naik who replaced regular starters like Kalu Ogba and Britto PM, while Uttam Rai was carrying a slight niggle.

Meanwhile, Moinuddin and Abhishek Ambekar took the place of Souvik Das and Deepak Devrani for Minerva Punjab FC.

After some end-to-end action, a big moment in the match came when William Asiedu was tackled by Wayne Vaz in the box after William was released by Checho Gyeltshen. Although the visitors had a strong appeal for a spot-kick, the referee paid little attention to it.

In the 16th minute, the referee awarded a penalty at the other end for Churchill Brothers and Koffi Mechac drew the first blood much to the dismay of the travellers.

Churchill midfielder Bektur Talgat lined up a shot from distance that deflected into the path of Koffi Mechac. Sukhdev Singh went into a tackle on the Cote D’Ivoire striker and the referee pointed straight to the spot.

Minerva had a chance when a curling free-kick from William Opoku was punched away by James Kithan. Minerva suffered a further setback at the stroke of the half-time when local boy Wayne Vaz netted from wide.

Minerva Punjab FC conceded a free-kick close to the half-way line and Osagie Monday released Dawda Ceesay down the right flank. Ceesay slid a pass to Wayne Vaz to cross into the box. His first attempt was blocked but the ball came back to Vaz who curled the ball towards the goal second time.

The effort caught Minerva keeper Kiran Kumar Limbu napping who was well off his line and couldn’t react on time as Churchill led 2-0 going into half-time.

Minerva found a lifeline in the 57th minute when they won a free-kick down the left flank near the touchline. Chencho curled the free-kick into the box. The ball was not cleared away and fell kindly to Minerva skipper Kassim Aidara who slammed home to make it 2-1.

They had a golden opportunity to level terms when Churchill conceded a penalty in the 61st minute. A Minerva corner saw Aidara knocked the ball back into the middle which caught Wayne Vaz’s hand.

Chencho stepped up to take the kick but his thumping shot went wide of Kithan’s post. Churchill had some goalscoring opportunities to score but they held their nerves to take all three points.

The Red Machines will enjoy an 8-day break now before taking on Indian Arrows on 10th February whereas Minerva Punjab FC will welcome Shillong Lajong FC at their ‘new home’ in Chandigarh.