Clayvin Bernardez Zuniga’s 85th-minute strike handed I-League table toppers Churchill Brothers three points in a 1-0 win over RoundGlass Punjab FC at the VYBK Stadium. In a match largely dominated — both in terms of possession and chances created — by the Goan outfit, the Fernando Varela-coached side found the winner late in the game after battering the Punjab defence with constant attacks.
In a frenetic opening to the match, each team was presented with a clear opportunity to take the lead and had both taken their chances, the match would have been locked at one apiece in under ten minutes. In the 4th minute, RoundGlass Punjab were handed a golden opportunity when forward Chencho Gyeltshen burst forward and rounded the onrushing goalkeeper. With the Bhutanese forward’s strike tumbling into the net, Suresh Meetei heroically came to the rescue and cleared the shot off the goalline.
Four minutes later, Luka Majcen was put on through to goal by a delicious cross from the right flank. With only the opposition custodian to beat, Majcen shot way over the bar as RoundGlass Punjab FC survived a scare.
After the amped-up opening of the match, both squads adopted a cautious stance. RoundGlass Punjab FC sat back and defended while the Goan outfit dominated possession and chances. In the 36th minute, Bazie Armand’s shot from outside the box was saved after a quick one-two pass with Zuniga.
In the 39th minute, Bazie was found clear of his marker by a cut-back ball by Clencio Pinto. Armand’s rocket of a shot from inside the box was however met by an even more impressive sliding tackle of Saurabh Bhanwala, making a goal-line clearance, to deny Churchill the lead.
With neither team taking their chances, it was goalless at half-time as both sides went into the tunnel on level pegging.
Churchill Brothers started the second half right where they had left the first — on an attacking note. In the 51st minute, Bryce Miranda cut inside from the right flank into the box and he tried to find the far left corner of the goal but his outside of the boot shot went wide of the goalpost.
For RoundGlass Punjab FC, chances were becoming rare and their midfield looked unable to keep possession. Despite that, Churchill could not open the Punjab outfit’s defences. The Goan side searched desperately for the opener, but chances in front of goal falling to Luka Majcen and Clayvin Bernardez went wide or were saved by Punjab’s Nepalese custodian Kiran Limbu.
In the 73rd minute, Zuniga from a tight angle tried to push his shot into the back of the net but his strike went flying wide of the goal. Churchill tried to breach the opposition citadel but were kept at bay right until the 85th minute when the Red Machines finally got the goal they were looking for.
The Honduran international Zuniga was found inside the box with a deft cross from the right flank and he applied a sublime touch to the ball and released a venomous shot which crashed into the back of the net.
Churchill held onto their one-goal lead till the end of the game to register their second win of the Hero I-League season, taking their points tally to seven in three matches.