Comeback man Willis Plaza lived up to his reputation with a goal and two assists as Churchill Brothers notched up a 4-1 win over Neroca FC in an I-League fixture in Margao on Sunday.
Ponif Vaz (5th), Willis Plaza (35th), Vinil Poojary (65th) and Israil Gurung (90+1st) scored for Churchill Brothers, while Philip Tettey (26th) struck once for Neroca FC.
Churchill Brothers now have 13 points from eight games and are placed fifth on the points table.
It was a day of comebacks for both the teams, as the home team saw the return of star striker Willis Deon Plaza, who wasn’t part of the loss that the Red Machines suffered against Gokulam Kerala FC away from home.
Neroca, on the other hand, saw the return of Singam Subhash Singh – their hero from the first season in the league, who made a move in the January transfer window from Real Kashmir FC.
The first half started with high-intensity action as the home team drew first blood from a corner in the 5th minute. The corner found an unmarked Ponif Vaz in front of the goal who smashed it home for his team to give them an early lead.
It was very hard to choose between both the teams as they were going toe-to-toe with little to separate them in terms of possession.
Neroca’s efforts finally paid off to get an equaliser when the ball fell to forward Philip Tettey, who dribbled past one defender and then James Kithan in the Churchill goal to score a praiseworthy goal with 26 minutes on the clock.
With a goal apiece, Churchill were eager to go in the lead and resorted to a high-pressing game and it worked to their advantage as a through ball on the left side of the box found Willis Plaza and he cut inside the box but was fouled by Roshan Singh, which led to a penalty.
Willis Plaza put the ball in the back of the net from the spot without much hassle and Churchill again led at home in the 35th minute.
There was action down to the last minute of the half as Plaza was again through because of a mistake by Marvin Phillip in the Neroca goal.
This time though, his first touch let him down and gave time to Neroca to regroup and they partially cleared the ball, which fell to Dawda Ceesay but his curled shot from the corner of the box went over the goal.
The first opportunity of the second half came for Neroca in the 54th minute. Tettey was through in a one-on-one but his shot was straight at Kithan in the Churchill goal, who made a crucial save.
Plaza, who was looking in scintillating form, pulled out another class act. His perfect through ball spotted Vinil Poojary in the 65th minute and resulted in a one-on-one situation as Poojary went around the keeper and netted the ball for the third goal.
The game was opening up even more now and in a two-minute span near the 70th minute, there were chances at both ends of the field but both goalkeepers showed their class and made acrobatic saves to pull their teams out of danger.
There was icing on the cake for the Red Machines in added time as second-half substitute Israil Gurung got in the act.
It was again captain Plaza who came up with the assist and a volleyed shot by the mid-fielder flew into the back of the net with the clock striking 90+1’.
James Kithan from Churchill Brothers FC Goa was awarded the Hero of the Match for his amazing performance in front of the goal.
TRAU extend unbeaten run to five games
A clash which did not help either side much to the end of it, hosts Gokulam Kerala FC played out a 1-1 draw against debutants Tiddim Road Athletic Union FC of Imphal at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode, Kerala on Sunday. Ugandan striker Henry Kisekka struck his fifth goal of this season in the 22nd minute which was neutralised by a spectacular strike from Krishnananda Singh in the 52nd minute of the game.
Following this result, TRAU will hold their third position with 15 points from 10 games and Gokulam will be placed fourth with 14 having played one game fewer. Meanwhile, Gokulam remained unbeaten at home for all four games this season while TRAU’s unbeaten streak extends to five games including their four wins on the trot.
Both sides fielded an unchanged eleven and the home side were clearly better in the first half, both in terms of creating chances and holding possession. While Gokulam were on with their build-up play from the word go, TRAU took a while to settled into their game of short and quick passes.
Gokulam took the lead off a short corner by their captain Marcus Joseph. The interception and clearance by the TRAU defence was not up to the mark and it only found its way till Mayakanan, who was rushing in from midfield. He relayed it back to an unmarked Joseph who had positioned himself inside the box.
Joseph shot with his favoured left-foot and the shot was well covered by Samanta, but on the rebound, it invited Kisekka, who was lurking to pounce, to tap it inside the goal.
It was the Ugandan’s fifth of the season and he had caught up with his strike partner Marcus Joseph.
The second half began in similar fashion for Gokulam as the first, with Joseph hitting the TRAU left upright in the very first minute.
But it was the league debutants who found their way back into the game thanks to their second-half substitute Joseph Olaleye, who was introduced at the expense of Naocha Singh. Latching onto a ball on the right flank, the Nigerian left Gokulam’s Muirang in his wake to drive inside the box and deliver a measured cross. Ubaid pulled off a couple of brilliant saves. First, when Krishnananda met the cross with a header followed by Emeka’s shot which got deflected to the post.
He was third-time unlucky though as Krishna got a second bite of the cherry and bulged the Gokulam net with his right foot.
TRAU, to their credit, also did not sit back and pressed for a win themselves. Krishna was rested in the 78th for another Nigerian forward Joel Sunday who had two strikes from a distance but both went wide.