Churchill Brothers saved relegation after putting it across Salgaocar Football Club 2-1 in the concluding match of the Airtel I-League at Tilak Maidan, Vasco, on Monday (April 28, 2014).
An own goal from Augustine Fernandes had put Churchill ahead but Salgaocar hit back through Darryl Duffy. Needing a win to save relegation, Churchill got the result they were hunting for all along as Balwant Singh scored the match winner in the 65th minute.
Kolkata outfit Mohammedan Sporting get relegated in the process as the win helped the Goan side to move up to 25 points – just a point above Mohammedan.
Salgaocar Football Club fielded their best possible squad with all four foreign players but they went down after just five minutes.
Nigerian defender Chika Wali was adjudged to have brought down Jaison Vales inside the danger zone and referee Rahul D’Sa lost no time in pointing at the dreaded spot.
Salgaocar players protested but the referee stuck to his guns. Goalkeeper Karanjit Singh saved Anthony Wolfe’s resultant penalty kick but Churchill still had a moment to laugh after Salgaocar defender Augustine Fernandes turned the rebound into his own goal.
Churchill had two more chances to kill the game but, interestingly, Augustine once came up with a goalline clearance to stop Balwant and then Thangjam Singh failed to control the ball after Wolfe had cleared the Salgaocar defence with a through ball.
Salgaocar were always going to be dangerous with Dudu Omagbemi and Darryl Duffy as strikers. Salgaocar restored parity in the 20th minute when Dudu’s cross from the left was headed goalwards by Rocus Lamare and then Duffy was at hand to complete the task.
The goal rattled Churchill and they found some time to get into the groove again. Mickky Fernandes and Thangjam tried their luck from distance but Karanjit Singh was never troubled.
At the other end, Duffy tested Churchill goalkeeper Lalit Thapa with a curling effort which he saved but the rebound was another opportunity which Dudu could not convert.
In the second session, Salgaocar had a wonderful chance to surge ahead but goalkeeper Lalit Thapa came up with a wonderful save to deny Duffy.
Just after the hour mark, Churchill instilled new life into their effort when Balwant Singh gave his side the lead for the second time. Wolfe, tireless for most part, worked his way down the left and essayed a ball to the other flank where India player Lenny Rodrigues somehow managed to find a touch and Balwant finished it off from close range.
Once Churchill had taken the lead, they retreated back into their own half and settled for defending. Salgaocar threw everything at them right till the end but Churchill defended as if their lives depended on it. It was a win that helped them survive in India’s top-flight football tournament.