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JCT hope for final flourish

Both Churchill and Dempo have 33 points, but the latter with a goal difference of plus 19 compared to Churchill's 15, occupy pole position. HT brings I-League Roundup

sports Updated: Feb 22, 2008 23:24 IST
Nidhi Bhanot
Nidhi Bhanot
Hindustan Times

AT THE Guru Nanak Stadium on Saturday, JCT and Salgaocar will walk out with a common aim — to sign off with on a high. Doing that for JCT will also mean they end with a Rs 22 lakh pay cheque and a third-place finish in the first I-League. Mathematically, JCT can also win the League but that will only happen if they trounce Salgaocar and both Dempo and Churchill Brothers are humiliated in their respective last-round encounters.

Churchill look for a win

Gordon D'Costa adds from Margao: A GOOD performance and a bit of luck at the final hurdle, could determine whether strong challengers Churchill Brothers nose ahead of main contenders Dempo to emerge champions in the inaugural edition of the I-League.

Both Churchill and Dempo have 33 points, but the latter with a goal difference of plus 19 compared to Churchill's 15, occupy pole position.

Churchill will further their cause if they beat Air India in their concluding match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Saturday. But, they will also have to hope that Dempo do not win against Viva Kerala in Calicut.

If Dempo win, then Churchill will have to win by a big margin.

Churchill coach Karim Bencherifa was relaxed after putting his players through a light training session on Friday and felt assured that his team would get a good result.

"I told the boys not to bother about the title and have instructed them to play for a win," he said.

But he cautioned against complacency. "I reminded the boys about how they took things for granted and drew with Sporting Clube de Goa in the previous round and later rued it."

Bencherifa felt his team stood a good chance of winning since his opponents are yet to register an away win in the competition this season.

"Air India's three wins were at home. They have yet to win an away match, so it's going to be difficult for them," he said.

Though without defender Naoba Singh and midfielder Khemtang Paite, both out with injuries, Churchill will find it tough against a determined Air India.

Coach Bimal Ghosh is keen to sign off on a positive note and is hoping to dash the Goan outfit's dream. "We have nothing to lose, but plenty to gain," said Ghosh.

"We are also at full strength and will go all out for a win. If the results of the other matches are in our favor, we can even improve our position," Ghosh said.

Dempo seek final push

Rajeeb Mukherjee adds from Kozhikode: Having fought off challenges and occasionally fluffed their lines during a bumpy four-month ride, it's D-Day for Dempo now. On the last Saturday of February, they could win the first I-League whose perquisites include Rs 50 lakh as winners' purse and a ticket to the AFC Cup. Standing between them and domestic football's most glittering prize are Viva Kerala, a team already relegated.

Such is the importance of the contest that coach Armando Colaco defied doctor's orders to be with the squad. He was advised rest after undergoing a knee operation following an accident, but couldn't stay away from the action and so decided to travel.

Win they will have to, or else the title could go to Churchill Brothers who too are on 33 points. Dempo have a goal difference of plus four but given Churchill Brothers and Okolie Odafa's penchant for goals - thrice they have scored five goals in a match with Odafa scoring a hattrick thrice - it may not be enough.

Mahindra, MB look to win

Camillo Fernandes adds from Mumbai: MOHUN BAGAN are ready for a ?tough? final match against local giants Mahindra United, stated Brazilian coach Carlos Roberto Pereira da Silva, as his team walked off the Cooperage pitch.

The visitor would like to repeat their 1-0 home win, but the Cooperage ground remains coach Silva's biggest concern, perhaps because of the goalless draw against Air India here. ?The bounce is very uneven which makes it very difficult for the players to control the ball," he said.

For Mohun Bagan, their performance in the final 90 minutes of the first I-League can at best see them climb one rung and take the third spot from JCT. For that to happen, however, they not only have to notch up three points against Mahindra United and hope cellar outfit Salgaocar produce an unlikely swansong performance before their demotion.

Unlike Mohun Bagan, however, Mahindra have a realistic hope of moving up the ladder from fifth spot. All they have to do is win on Saturday. So, a draw will help neither team; nothing less that a victory will do.

Mahindra United will have to watch out for Mohun Bagan's lethal attacking combination of Bhaichung Bhutia and Brazilain Jose Ramirez Barreto who have together scored 14 of the team's 24 goals this season. The couple of changes in the Kolkata outfit, due to injury, will see Anit Ghosh take Subhashish Roy Choudhary's place in the midfield and Rauf Khan start in place of Habibur Rehman Mondal in the defence.

Mahindra United coach Derrick Pereira has a few worries too with midfielder Steven Dias and defender N.P. Pradeep being doubtful. ?I would like to go with the same that played in the last match against Air India but we will have to wait and see,? he said.