An injury-struck Churchill Brothers were held to a 1-1 draw by Tiddim Road Union Athletic (TRAU) to maintain their position at the top of the I-League with 11 points out of 5 matches, at the Kalyani Municipal Stadium in Kalyani, West Bengal on Friday, January 29, 2021. Clayvin Zuniga’s 18th-minute header was cancelled by Bidyashagar Singh’s 23rd-minute striker, in a match where the Red Machines were forced to make as many as three substitutions due to injuries. With this draw, TRAU remained second in the I-League, still four points adrift of the Red Machines.
In an end-to-end match that tested the tenacity of both the teams, it was Churchill Brothers that started the proceedings on an attacking note in an attempt to fluster their opponents and take an early lead. And they nearly succeeded in the 2nd minute when Clencio Pinto was found in the box by a Luka Majcen cross from the left flank. Pinto’s attempt to tap the ball home, however, missed the delivery completely as it flashed in front of the goal and went out. Three minutes later, the leading goalscorer of the I-League, Clayvin Zuniga, had a sniff at goal when his header off a free-kick went inches over the bar.
Attacking momentum finally reaped dividends for Churchill Brothers on the 18th minute. A well-worked corner kick taken by Clencio Pinto found Clayvin Zuniga in the box. Zuniga out-jumped his marker and thumped the ball home to give the Red Machines the lead.
Despite Churchill’s momentum going forward, their lead was short-lived, in the 23rd minute Bidyashagar Singh equalised proceedings when he found the net from a tight angle at the far post after a Komron Tursunov cross was misjudged by the Churchill goalkeeper, who despite coming off his lines, failed to catch it. The ball fell to Bidyashagar, who tapped home with ease.
Churchill Brothers were dealt two heavy blows next. Goalscorer Clayvin Zuniga was subbed off along with goalkeeper Shibinraj, owing to injuries on the 30th and 35th minutes, respectively. Kingslee Fernandes, who had come on to replace Zuniga, got into the thick of the action immediately and his shot, shortly after coming on, went past the opposition’s goal.
The Red Machines were forced to make another substitution owing to an injury in the 44th minute when Richard Costa was replaced by Vinil Poojary. At half-time, there was nothing to separate the two teams as they went into the tunnel with the scores reading 1-1.
TRAU came on spurred in the second half trying to take advantage of a weakened Churchill Brother’s side. Komron Tursunov, on the 48th minute, trotted into the box after being found by a through ball, but just before the Tajik forward was able to shoot, the referee blew his whistle for offside.
On the 56th minute, substitute Vinil Poojary’s outside-of-the-boot shot from close range went whiskers wide of the goal as Churchill looked to take the upper hand of the proceedings. With the Red Machines playing a high line and pressing from the front, TRAU used counter-attacks to exploit Churchill’s defence. However, on the 68th minute, TRAU, much against the run of play, had a golden opportunity denied after Joseph Mayoya’s effort from inside the box was blocked by Churchill’s defence.
On the 74th minute, TRAU had a golden opportunity to surge ahead in the lead when a through ball found Mayowa inside the box. The forward, with only the goalkeeper to beat, and what looked like a sure goal, rattled the post with his effort as Churchill survived. Komron Tursunov’s effort, shortly after, earned a heroic save by substitute goalkeeper Shilton Paul.
Despite all these opportunities, the match came to a close with the scores level. At the end of the game, the full-time scoreline read 1-1 as both teams shared points.