Churchill Brothers moved into the semifinals of the Durand Cup on Thursday despite being held to a 1-1 draw with Assam Rifles in their quarterfinal league match at the Ambedkar Stadium. The reigning I-League champions comfortably moved into the next round from Group I.
Both teams played short but miscalculated passes, and lost a lot of possession in the midfield. It was no surprise then that the scoreboard read 0-0 at the end of 45 minutes.
Churchill looked exhausted after their packed schedule in both the IFA Shield and Durand Cup, and Assam Rifles did everything to run them all around.
The best chance came in the 9th minute when a clever pass from captain Odafe Okolie from the right flank found Khan Thang Paite in the box. Despite only goalkeeper Sinam Lokeswar to beat, Paite lost his nerve and sent the ball over the post.
It was end-to-end play after halftime. Assam Rifles brought on substitute keeper Moni Chandra Singh after Lokeswar picked up a knock. A revitalised Churchill attacked but the opposition scored first in the 55th minute. In a swift counter by Assam Rifles, Thoi Thoiba Singh headed wide Meikingai Kamei’s pass into the box. But after the ball fell back to Kamei, he sent in a powerful shot that even the tall Churchill keeper, Arindam Bhattacharya, could not keep out. It was 1-0 to Assam Rifles.
Churchill equalised in the 77th minute through substitute Charan Rai, whose move from the left caught the defence napping.
Dempo in semifinals
Needing only a draw to progress to the next round from Group III, Dempo beat Army XI 1-0 in the second match, courtesy a goal from Ranti Martins. The game started briskly and Valeriano Rebello’s free kick almost sailed into the opposition net in the second minute. Robi Kanta Singh, the Army XI custodian, had to tip the ball over to deny Dempo the opener.
The start of the second half saw more misses as another Dempo shot sailed over the net.
There were appeals for a penalty by Army XI after Anwar was accused of bringing down S Raleng in the box. But the referee did not award a spot kick and allowed play to continue.
Dempo scored in the 58th minute through some wonderful teamwork. Mahesh Gawli’s pass was squared into the box by Joaquim and Martins poked the ball in at the near post.