If conspiracies are the only way to thwart Okolie Odafa, maybe a better one needs to be contrived. For there is no stopping the 25-year-old as he scored two goals, including a stunning free-kick, to help Churchill Brothers come from behind to hold Mohun Bagan in their ninth round I-League encounter. True Churchill Brothers were held, but this was as good as a win for them after Odafa and two others were accused of molesting an airhostess on their way to Kolkata.
Veteran striker Jose Barreto was also at his best, keeping Mohun Bagan throbbing with his deft display of footwork. He started a bit rusty, failing to convert Biswajit Saha’s cross in front of an open goal. On the withdrawal, Mohun Bagan conceded a free-kick outside the 18-yard-box. Japanese midfielder Dan Ito unleashed a floating cross and by the time Mohun Bagan keeper Sangram Mukherjee could flap at it, Odafa headed in the opener.
With Marcos Pereira operating in the hole, Mohun Bagan threatened with a number of well-stitched moves. They were successful in extracting a corner kick in the 35th minute and Pereira, after taking a short kick, chipped the ball into the danger zone where Barreto came up with a low header to place the ball past Churchill Brothers custodian Arindam Bhattacharya.
Five minutes into the second half, Mohun Bagan were awarded a penalty after Bhattacharya brought down Ryuji. Barreto, unlike in the Federation Cup semifinal against East Bengal last year, converted.
Twenty minutes from the final whistle, Rakesh Masih brought down Ogba Kalu on the fringes of Mohun Bagan’s box and immediately, Churchill Brothers were awarded a free-kick. It was again Odafa’s moment of reckoning as he launched into a pile-driver that sneaked through the opposition wall to beat the lunging Mukherjee.
‘God on our side’
The Churchill Brothers skipper’s first thoughts after scoring were not about his wife, but about God. “I dedicate this effort to God. I feel that God is on our side as we haven’t done anything wrong,” Odafa said.
Scoring a brace three days after suffering probably the darkest phase of his professional life was itself a cause for celebration, but Odafa went about his business quietly. “We can’t always think about what has happened in the past. It is our job to play and today I got my result,” said Odafa.
Arindam gets into scuffle
Churchill Brothers keeper Arindam Bhattacharya got into a scuffle with one of the fans after missiles thrown from the stands hit Kalu after the match. He rushed outside to confron the people after Kalu was carried into the dressing room. A scuffle ensued and police had to order a small lathicharge to disperse the mob. It was learnt that the team would complain against the level of security provided at the stadium.