A first-half strike from Felix Chimaokwu saw I-League defending champions Churchill Brothers edge past Yemen’s Al Hilal 1-0 and qualify for the knockout stage of the AFC Cup.
The home side were far from their usual free-flowing best at the Nehru stadium in Goa but Chimaokwu’s goal - his second match-winning effort in as many games - proved enough.
Churchill now have seven points and with a match against Kuwait Sports Club to come later this month and are guaranteed at least a runners-up finish in Group B.
Kuwait SC are second with two points in the three-team Group B and the defending champions will also fancy their chances of qualification as they need just a win from their two remaining matches.
Al Hilal remain at the bottom of the table with one point.
Churchill were expected to see off their opponents easily but on the evidence of the opening first half an hour, it seemed that instead, they were in for a testing encounter.
The hosts took a good 15 minutes to create their first opening. Nigerian midfielder Ogba Kalu, who had a relatively quiet game, sent a delightful through to Chimaokwu who, under pressure from a defender, ended up hitting the side netting.
The match hardly rose above mediocre in the first 45 minutes but it was Churchill who ended the half celebrating when Nascimento Silveira robbed the ball from Mohammed Saleh Yousef Salem just outside the box and set-up Chimaokwu, who hammered the ball past helpless Al Hilal goalkeeper Salem Abdullah Awadh Saeed.
Mahindra face Mumbai FC
Mumbai: I-League leaders Mahindra United face Mumbai FC in their 20th round encounter here at the Cooperage on Wednesday. While Mahindra lead the pack with 36 points, Dempo are breathing down their necks with 35 points, rendering the tie vital for david Booth’s team to stay ahead in the race.
In another match, Sporting Clube de Goa host a depleted JCT.