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Churchill Brothers FC dampened Chennai City's plan of securing their maiden I-League title with a dramatic 3-2 win over the table toppers at the Tilak Maidan here on Friday.
Chennai City drew the first blood in the 29th minute through Sandro R before Willis Plaza (38') restored parity for the hosts. The Red Machines took the lead through Christ Remi (50') once again but it was Pedro Manzi (69') who made no mistake in converting from the penalty spot.
Their efforts were wasted as "Hero of the Match" Willis Plaza completed his brace (71') to help his team secure victory.
With this win, Churchill elevated to the third spot with 34 points while Chennai City FC continued to lead the table with 40 points, 4 points ahead of second-placed Quess East Bengal who have played one match less.
East Bengal will need to win their next match against Minerva Punjab FC on March 3 to stay afloat in the title hunt. Anything except a win for the Red and Golds would seal the title for the Southerners, courtesy their superior head-to-head record.
Chennai City, with the urgency to clinch their maiden Hero I-League title with a win against Churchill Brothers, started on a safe note on Friday. Unlike their normal attacking style, it seemed like they were trying to soak in the pressure as Churchill Brothers went pressing hard right from the start.
Willis Plaza, Khalid Aucho and Nicholas Fernandes were combining well to breach the Chennai City defence time and again but somehow couldn't find a way to finish their attempts. A foul by Wayne Vaz on Nestor Gordillo earned the visitors a free-kick at the top of the box.
Spanish midfielder Sandro's free-kick, after a deflection from Plaza, gave Chennai the lead in the 29th minute. Churchill Brothers thereafter went on attacking in regular intervals through the combination of Nicholas Fernandes and Khalid Aucho to feed Plaza time and again.
Their efforts soon yielded result when Plaza successfully tapped in from an inch-perfect cross by Fernandes in the 38th minute.
The first half ended with the scoreboard locked at 1-1.
The second half began with Chennai pressing hard for the lead but it was again Churchill Brothers who turned the game Willis on its head. Following a clever interception, Churchill Brothers took the lead soon through Christ Remi.
Churchill Brothers never really stopped trying hard to score their insurance goal but timely interceptions by Chennai City kept them at bay. Chennai City, who played a lot around the midfield, tried a lot from counter-attacks.
Owing to a handball by Wayne Vaz inside the penalty box, Chennai City were awarded a penalty and Pedro Manzi made no mistake to restore the parity in the 69th minute. But Churchill cut their joy short by scoring the winner within two minutes.