It’s always a pleasure to watch two teams that love playing an attacking game mucking it out. And, when Churchill Brothers meet Shillong Lajong in the Durand Cup semifinal on Thursday, one can expect a vibrant display of skill and quality at the Ambedkar Stadium.
Churchill, who beat Army Red 5-0 and 10-man Mohammedan Sporting 2-0, would be the favourite in Thursday's encounter, having beaten Lajong twice in the last sixth months — at the IFA Shield semifinal in March (2-0) and the group stage Federation Cup tie last month (3-1). However, coach Manuel Gomes, a member of the coaching staff of Portugal’s 2002 World Cup campaign, does not expect an easy outing.
“Lajong are a good team, we’ve played them before and they’re always sure to provide a good game. That said, Churchill is confident and we’re both gunning for the title, so it should be an entertaining match,” Gomes told HT.
“It isn’t just about one player,” continued 59-year-old Gomes, who served as assistant-coach of Benfica for two years before a stint as national coach of Maldives. “While Beto (Roberto Silva) is an asset, the team is more important. They are gelling well at the moment and it's important before the I-League begins.”
Shillong Lajong coach Pradhyum Reddy was more measured. “We’ve lost to them twice, but the side is more confident now. Defensively, we need to improve as we’ve given away a goal every game and against a team like Churchill, gifting them a goal will finish us.”
While Lajong will miss the services of injured custodian Gumpe Rime and midfielder Boithang Haokip, Churchill will miss striker David Opara.