Churchill Brothers (Vales 37, Bikramjit 44, Sunil 84) 3-0 Warriors FC
Churchill Brothers : Felix D’ Souza; Denzil Franco, Dharmaraj Ravanan, Naveen Kumar, Sanjay Balmuchu; Amandeep Singh (Israil Gurung), Tomba Singh, Bikramjit Singh, Jaison Vales (Biswajit Biswas ); Sunil Chhetri (Ajay Singh), Balal Arezou.
Warriors FC: Hassan Sunny; Zulfadli Zainal Abidin (Syaiful Iskandar), Abdil Qaiyyim, Daniel Bennett, Marin Vidosevic; Ruzaini Zainal, Shukor Zailan, Prakash Manikam (Sufian Anuar), Tatsuro Inui; Erwan Gunawan, Mislav Karoglan.
I-League leaders Churchill Brothers defeated Singapore Cup holders Warriors FC (formerly known as Singapore Armed Forces FC) 3-0 in an AFC Cup Group E encounter in Pune to remain in contention for a place in the round of 16. Warriors’ poor start in Singapore’s S-League was evident as they were well beaten by a second-string Churchill side with Jaison Vales, Bikramjit Singh and Sunil Chhetri getting on the scoresheet.
With six key players missing including three foreigners – Beto, Henri Antchouet (injury) and Lamine Tamba (suspension) – the Churchill Brothers squad was completely depleted ahead of this game and technical director Subhash Bhowmick also decided to rotate his goalkeeper as Felix D’ Souza started in place of Sandip Nandy.
The midfield in particular lacked experience with a lot of responsibility on young Bikramjit Singh but there was plenty of quality upfront as India captain Sunil Chhetri started alongside Afghanistan international Balal Arezou.
Warriors were in a must-win situation, having lost their first two games and coach V Selvaraj named a full strength lineup with the in-form Erwan Gunawan supporting Bosnian striker Mislav Karoglan .
With the match kicking off at 3 pm, both sides had to endure the afternoon heat and thus struggled to get going in the opening stages. The first big chance of the game came in the 34th minute when Sunil set up Arezou, who went past Warriors goalkeeper Hassan Sunny but his effort was cleared off the line.
It was a big let off for Warriors but Churchill Brothers didn’t have to wait long to take the lead as three minutes later Vales scored with a brilliant strike from just outside the box.
Churchill were ending the half very strongly and doubled their advantage just before the interval through Bikramjit. The former Arrows midfielder found the back of the net for the second straight AFC Cup game after some fine work by Sunil as Churchill went into the break with a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Warriors are not among the stronger teams of Singapore’s S-League with just two wins in their opening six matches of the new season and their lack of quality was evident in the second half also as they never really threatened to come back into the contest.
Coach V Selvaraj made a couple of tactical changes but it didn’t cause any trouble to the Churchill backline and the Goan club could have easily increased their advantage through Arezou and Sunil.
The two strikers were combining brilliantly with Arezou producing another brilliant save off Hassan Sunny while the Indian captain went close with a header after being well set up by the Afghanistan international.
Warriors started seeing the ball a bit more in the final stages as Churchill were dropping deep but the points were sealed in the 83rd minute when Sunil scored from a counter attack. Like Bikramjit, the star striker has now scored in back-to-back AFC Cup games.
With three consecutive defeats, Warriors FC are now ever closer to elimination while Churchill Brothers could take a giant step towards the knockout stage if they do the double over the Singapore club next week.Published 02 Apr 2013, 17:35 IST