Churchill beat Air India 3-2, enter Durand Cup final

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New Delhi, Nov 5 (UNI) A late winner by Odafe Onyeka Okolie saw Churchill Brothers score a 3-2 victory over Air India and storm into the final of the 120th Osian's Durand Cup football tournamernt here today.

Okolie scored in the 81st minute to break the deadlock after Narendra Meetei (10th) and Santosh Kohli (27th) had scored for Air India and Gouramangi Singh (17th) and Mboyo Ibomi (35th) found the target.

Churchill were trailing twice in the match but emerged winners to advance into the summit round, their second time in the third oldest club competition in the world. They were the losing finalists to Mahindra United in 2001.

The match was a treat to watch with both the sides playing an open and fast-paced game and action shifting from one end to another.

Both sides also created many chances and goalmouth tussles which kept the sparse crowd at the Ambedkar Stadium hooked to the eage of their seats.

Air India, who stunned defending champions Dempo in the quarter-finals, drew first blood with Narendra Meetei connecting a free kick by Nirmal Chhetri from 25 yards.

The Mumbai side's lead survived for another 10 minute before Churchill and India defender Gouramangi Singh scored from a fine curling free kick by Okolie.

Ten minutes later, Air India took the lead again, this time also from a dead ball. Napoleon Singh sent a curling free kick from near the right corner for captain Bashir Abbas to make a diagonal header from near the far post for Santosh Kohli to deposit the ball into the Churchill goal with a diving header.

Just a minute later, Churchill's Mboyo Ibomi was in the thick of action but his free hit from the top of the box sailed over the bar.

Iyomi did not commit any mistake for the second time as he restored parity 10 minutes from the breather from an Okolie spadework.

Okolie ran through a couple of defenders inside the penalty box before unleashing a right footer which deflected from diving Air India goalkeper's outstreched hand but Iyomi was at the right place to tap in the ball into the empty net with his left foot.

Four minute after the resumption, Narendra Meetei was denied by the woodwork after his right footer beat the goalkeeper but still hit the crosspiece.

From then onwards, the pace of the match slowed down and though both the sides tried hard in search of the winner they had to wait till the 81st minute with Okolie siezeing the opportunity.

Air India defence was caught offguard from a long clearance from Churchill half and Okolie got the better of Mumbai side's defender Dhanachandra Singh, beat the goalkeeper also and slam the ball into the empty net to take his side to Wednesday's final.


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