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Aizawl FC Rally to hold Churchill Brothers to a draw

Churchill Brothers FC Goa and Aizawl FC drew 1-1 in the fifth round of the 2022-23 I-League at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco da Gama, Goa on Friday.

An early first half goal from Churchill Brothers debutant Kamo Stephane Bayi was canceled out by a Henry Kisekka header in the second half as both teams shared the spoils after an intriguing 90 minutes.

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Churchill Brothers made their intention clear from kick-off as they took the game to Aizawl. Even before the visitors could settle in, the hosts took the lead in the third minute. Lalawmpuia Sailo won a free kick in attacking position after an error by Aizawl’s Eisuke Mohri. The young Churchill midfielder then sent a curling cross into the penalty area for Ponif Vaz at the far post, who headed the ball to Kamo Stephane Bayi to tap into the open net to open the scoring.

Against the odds, Churchill defender Momo Cisse lost the ball to Henry Kisekka in the 23rd minute. The Ugandan passed it through to Dawngliana who took a powerful shot at goal, but Churchill keeper Albino Gomes held on and saved the attempt at the cost of a corner kick. The visitors began to put pressure on the Churchill defense as they conceded four back-to-back corners but were unable to take advantage of the set pieces. Defender Emmanuel Makinde came closest when he hit the side net in the fourth corner.

By the half hour mark, goalscorer Kamo Bayi deftly dribbled past two Aizawl defenders before making a pass for captain Kingslee Fernandes. Fernandes then shuffled past his marker to create the necessary space for himself to shoot, but his effort was well saved by Aizawl goalkeeper Vikram Singh.

In the 33rd minute, the Red Machines had another chance to double their lead when Lalkhawpuimawia entered the box on a through ball from Sailo. However, the Indian striker took too much time on the ball and Vikram closed it before he could shoot.

Kisekka had a golden chance to equalize for the People’s Club just before half-time. R Ramdinthara crossed the ball for Kisekka from the left, but the Ugandan couldn’t make the most of it when his header went over the crossbar.

The game resumed and both teams were determined to score the next goal. Ten minutes into the break, Churchill had their first big chance of the half when they got hold of Aizawl on the counter. Receiving the ball in the opposing half, Kamo Bayi went one-on-one with Aizawl’s last defender Makinde before taking a curling iron from the edge of the box, which was acrobatically pushed away by goalkeeper Vikram.

Home captain Kingslee Fernandes, along with Sailo and Quan Gomes constantly harassed the Aizawl defense with their skills and moves, while at the defensive end, Raju Gaikwad was ever present for Churchill to impede Aizawl’s attack.

Things turned into an end-to-end affair as the match approached the final whistle. Aizawl shifted gears in search of the equalizer and finally succeeded in the 75th minute. A perfect cross from the left from Zodingliana Ralte found Kisekka in the penalty area and the Ugandan striker made no mistake as he neatly headed the ball into the net.

Churchill Brothers head coach Antonio Rueda introduced the likes of Tana and Abdoulaye Sané in their bid to find the winner. It was all Churchill in the closing minutes, but the visitors came closest. During stoppage time, substitute Jeremy Laldinpuia grabbed a loose ball with his perfect touch before firing into the penalty area, but his left foot was saved by Churchill goalkeeper Gomes in the final play of the game.

Following the result, Churchill Brothers remain in 11th place on two points with two draws from their first five games, while Aizawl move up to eighth position with five points from as many games.

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