Trinidadian striker Willis Plaza struck twice, including the match-winner, as Churchill Brothers beat Delhi Dynamos 2-1 to enter the final round of the inaugural Super Cup football tournament in Bhubaneswar on Thursday.
Plaza cancelled out Kalu Uche’s fifth minute strike by scoring his first goal of the match in the 34th minute before finding the the match-winner in the 106th minute as the qualifying round match went into extra time after both sides were locked in a 1-1 stalemate after 90 minutes.
The Goan side will now face Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan – another I-League side – on April 1 at the same venue of Kalinga Stadium in the main round of the tournament beginning March 31.
Churchill Brothers finished ninth in the 10-team I-League this season.
For Delhi Dynamos, this was their first loss after the six-match unbeaten run in the Indian Super League. They had finished eighth in the ISL.
The ISL side started strong, controlling the proceedings from the midfield where Uruguayan Claudio Mirabaje Correa had an outstanding half.
The Lions got a goal as early as the fifth minute when the Kalu Uche, fresh from a 13-goal run in the ISL, latched on to a ball just outside the box on the left after a neat 1-2 with Nandhakumar, before unleashing into the back of the net.
Delhi continued to dominate possession. Romeo Fernandez, the Lions’ right-sided midfielder, then found Uche again in the 12th minute with a wonderful cross. The Nigerian’s header, this time, brought about a neat save from Churchill goalkeeper Cardozo. A minute later, Lalianzuala Changte missed with a clear sight at goal from inside the box.
After the first quarter of an hour, Churchill slowly started to find their feet.
In the 32nd minute, Nicolas found Plaza with a wonderful floater from the left wing. The Trinidadian controlled the ball in his own imitable way and drilled a shot through the near post into the back of the net. Delhi’s Spanish goalkeeper Xabier had no chance.
Churchill had clearly shed all inhibitions after the first-half display as they immediately brought in Israel Gurung for Yendremban Meitei at the start of the second half, thus bolstering the midfield by sacrificing a defender.
It turned out to be an exciting half with both sides creating opportunities and missing with equal disdain. Mirabaje free kick in the 56th minute sailed over and away from the bar. Plaza’s thunderous free-kick in the 61st minute from the top of the box was saved by Irueta.
While Delhi were still ahead in possession and were pressing hard, their efforts to weave through the Churchill defence lacked imagination and penetration.
The first 15 minutes of the extra time was sluggish. Then Plaza, in the second half of extra time, took a long ball from Jovel Martins, evaded two defenders and wrong-footed the ‘keeper to snatch the victory for his team.
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