Churchill aims to retain Durand crown as Mahindra look for revenge

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New Delhi, Sep 6 (UNI) A battle of attrition is on the cards as defending champion Churchill Brothers (Goa) seek to extend their lease on the trophy while runners up Mahindra United (Mumbai) will be thirsting for revenge as the two lock horns in the final of the 121st Durand Cup Football here tomorrow.

Mahindra, who last won the Durand Cup seven years ago, were well below their best in the initial matches but showed a glimpse of their class in the semi-final against JCT.

Their foreign import Edeh Chidi has been their trump card, creating problems for the rival defences with his speed and ball control.

The Nigerian has received ample support from strike partner Mohammed Rafi with Sushanth Mathew and Paresh Shivalkar performing creditably down the wings. Add Douhous Pieree and his defence splitting through passes in the mix, and you get a potentially explosive combination upfront.

The defence marshalled by skipper K Ajayan has looked rock solid so far. The tall and sturdy Harpreet Singh and Justine Stephen have been a pillar of strength in the centre of defence, dealing effectively with aerial challenges.

However, the off-colour Sushil Kumar Singh remains a cause for worry for coach Derrick Pereira as also will be the fact that the attack seemed toothless without Chidi in the first half of their last quarter-final encounter against Churchill Brothers.

The Goans, on the other hand, seem to depend too much on Odafa Onyeka Okoli, who is their main striker.

The Nigerian, though brilliant in patches, has displayed a tendency for over-dribbling and too much holding on to the ball.

Okoli was effectively marked out of the game by Sporting Clube De Goa during last night's semi-final which rendered the Churchill attack impotent.

Churchill coach Emeka Ezugo, who has already voiced his displeasure at Okoli, would do well to look for another big bodied centre forward to partner the well-built Nigerian before the I-League.

However, the performance of Reisangmi Vashum will provide some measure of relief to Churchill fans. The dimunitive Manipuri has impressed one and all with his speed and dribbling. His accurate through passes have provided the fuel for Okoli to work his magic upfront.

However, Churchill's three man defence has looked a bit wobbly in past matches which must be giving Ezugo sleepless nights. But the Nigerian World Cupper would be happy to welcome left-back Gourmangi Singh back into the side after a one-match ban.

He could also take heart from their previous encounter against Mahindra United in the final quarter-final group league match. They played for over an hour with 10 men and still emerged the better side despite the 1-1 outcome.

With the country's premier football competition, the I-League, commencing later this month, a victory in the Durand Cup would provide a perfect start to the season ahead.

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