Coach Emeka Ezugo was more annoyed than others after Churchill Brothers' listless display in their last match against Army XI on Sunday. The players' indifferent approach only added fuel to the fire. But on Tuesday, the Ezugo seemed a relived man.
Even though Edeh Chidi's header for Mahindra United led to Churchill sharing honours with the Mumbai outfit in their Osian's Durand Cup quarterfinal league match at the Ambedkar Stadium, Ezugo's boys dished out a vastly improved performance, which visibly impressed the Nigerian coach. Reisangmi Vasum put Churchill in the lead as early as in the eight-minute, but Chidi's strike in the 75th dashed Churchill's hopes of a win.
With a semifinal berth as group leader already in the pocket, Gourmangi Singh receiving a red card for his accidental lunge on Sushil Kumar would be the only cause for concern for the Goan outfit now. The India defender is a key man in Churchill's scheme of things and his absence will certainly be felt when they meet Sporting Clube de Goa in the second semifinal on Friday. "Somebody will shape up in his place, can't say who, at the moment," Ezugo said.
A 10-men Churchill might have won the match midway into the second half when Okolie Odafa earned a penalty after being tackled by Justine Stephen. But it was just not his day --- the last season's leading scorer had begun Churchill's campaign with a bang scoring twice. But on Tuesday his poorly placed spot kick deprived his team of three points.
Churchill could have scored their second goal after Vashum was felled by Harpreet Singh inside the box, but referee Pratap Singh was not convinced.
While Churchill had more than a few hiccups against Army XI, apart from Odafa's miss, the team looked composed against Mahindra United.
The defence that seemed out of sorts two days ago was restored while there was better mobility in the midfield. Odafa and Ogba Kalu were always on the lookout for goals and gave the attacking thrust to the side.
Just when it seemed that Churchill would labour to a 1-0 win came Chidi's strike. The Nigerian, who came off the bench in the 55th minute, headed home K Ajayan's precise cross from the left.
Raleng finally scores
Struggling to live up to the expectations after his outstanding run in the Santosh Trophy, Sochugmi Raleng finally showed his goal-scoring ability by scoring the lone goal in Army XI's win against Mumbai FC. Army's win paved the way for Mahindra to make it to the final four even before their game against Churchill.