In the context of Indian football, the name Okolie Odafe has now become synonymous with goals. Fresh from Churchill Brothers' triumphant campaign in the recently concluded IFA Shield last week, the Nigerian struck the winner to guide his team to a 1-0 win over Sporting Clube de Goa and keep their hopes of qualifying for the semifinals of the 122nd Durand Cup alive.
By striking at a time when it seemed the I-League champions would have to be content with a point, the Churchill skipper ensured Gourmangi Singh's accurate pass didn't go to waste. The India defender played the ball from the left to Odafe, whose left-footer found the target.
Churchill rejoiced last weekend and they have started this week on a winning note as well. Though they would have liked to be more clinical in their win, they wouldn't be complaining, as the three points earned from Tuesday's match will prove handy in the race to the semifinals.
There was nothing much to separate the two teams in the Goan derby, except the towering presence of Odafe.
Sporting played out of their skins, the ploy to have N. Samananda Singh and Mathew Gonsalves mark Odafe working till the 82nd minute. The wingers functioned well, supporting the men upfront, but their strikers were the biggest let down. Michael Tayo's pairing with Junior Elijah Obagbemiro didn't work the way it did against Assam Rifles.
Carlos Pereira's well-oiled team looked subdued at the start, but they still had more shots at goal. Odafe's pile driver just before the breather went over the bar while Robert Lalthlamuana also didn't have any luck --- his shot hit the upright.
After the breather, Churchill focussed more on attack with both flanks being used on regular basis. But Sporting could have found the equaliser right after Odafe's strike had it not been for Arindam Bhattacharya's acrobatic save. The Churchill custodian blocked a scorcher from Tayo to ensure victory for his team.
Smarting from the humiliation they suffered at the hands of Chirag United and Tata Football Academy (TFA) in the IFA Shield, East Bengal will look to set their house in order when they take on Lajong F. C. in a quarterfinal league match on Wednesday.
Also, Mohun Bagan will lock horns with ONGC, in the day's first match.