Churchill lift maiden Durand Cup; run away with most awards

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New Delhi, Nov 7 (UNI) Churchill Brothers won their maiden Durand Cup title after a hard fought 1-0 victory over Mahindra United in the final here today.

Churchill hung on to an 11th minute strike by skipper Odafe Onyeka Okolie and survived repeated onslaughts by Mahindra in second session to emerge winners at Ambedkar Stadium.

The win was Churchill's first major title in a national top level competition and for Mahindra, it was the back to back defeat in a final after they lost to East Bengal in the Federation Cup in September.

The finale to the 15-day long tournament, however, did never rise to great heights and most of the exchanges eneded without having a clear look at the goal.

Churchill dominated the first session while the Mumbai side were the overwhelming better side in the second session.

Okolie, the tournament'a highest goal scorer with 10 strikes to his credit before today's final, scored the only goal of the match when the Mahindra defence was caught napping early in the tie.

Churchill midfielder Bernardo Pires sent a wonderful pass from the centre line which went past Mahindra defenders Sushant Mathew and Ravanan Dharmaraj for Okolie to collect it neatly just outside the box.

The Nigerian then ran a few paces and fired powerful right footer which went past an advancing goalkeeper Sandip Nandy into the net.

Even after conceding an early goal, Mahindra, which had scored only one goal in the tournament, could not penetrate the Churchill defence led by India central defender Gouramangi and it was rather the Goan side who made threatening moves through Okolie and Mboyo Iyomi.

Mahindra regrouped in the second half which was overwhelmingly dominated by them. Churchill was defending althrough the second session by crowding in their box.

In the 69th minute, after an exchange of fine passes between Yusuf Yakubu and Steven Dias, Krishnan Ajayan collected the ball in front of goal but his left footer after rounding off a defender missed the left post by a whisker.

Mahindra's best chance came five minutes later when Manjit Singh booted in a Yakubu corner from the right only to be saved by Churchill goalkeeper Vinay Singh from the goal line.

In the last quarter of the hour, Derrick Pereira's boys sent the ball inside the Churchill box repeatedly but the Goan defence of Gouramangi, Govin, Naoba Singh and Robert Lathlamuan did a fantastic job to deny the experienced Mahindra forwards any openings though they had to survive some tense moments.

An ecstatic Churchill coach Mario Soares later admitted his boys did not play entertaining football in the second session but had to resort to it to win a maiden title.

''Mahindra was attacking and sending aerial balls in our box in the second session most of the time, so I told my boys to defend.

I do not mind it as we wanted to win our maiden title,'' he said.

''I had told my boss (club president) that I would bring the Cup, so winning was very important today,'' said the former India international, justifying his defensive tactics in the second session.

Even striker and today's goal getter Okloie fell back and defended for most part of the second half after Mahindra began making several aerial attacks on the Churchill goal Churchill also swept most of the award besides collecting the winners purse of Rs 8 lakh. Okolie was adjudged player of the final match which carried Rs 5,000. He was also richer by Rs 20,000 besides receiving the golden boot for becoming tournament's highest goal scorer with 11 goals.

Okolie's team-mate and central defender Gouramangi was adjudged player of the tournament which carried Rs 20,000 though the Manipuri did not at first believe that he had won the award.

Mahindra collected Rs 6 lakh while Salgaocar coach Savio Medeira was awarded Rs 20,000 cash prize for best coach.

The losing semi-finalists received Rs 1.5 lakh each while the losing quater-finalists got Rs 50,000 each.

Five promising players were also selected and awraded them Rs 10,000 each.


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