Home United 2 (Nawaz 24, Sahdan 72)
Churchill Brothers 1 (Precious own goal 26)
Home United: Shahril Jantan; Ismail Yunos, Sirina Camara, Precious Emuejeraye (Indra Sahdan 53), Juma’at Jantan; Izzdin Shafiq (Ahmed Fahmie 65), Yasir Hanapi, Fazrul Nawaz (Shaheer Afiq 79), Lee Kwan-Woo; Qiu Li, Bruno Castanheira
Churchill Brothers: Lalit Thapa; Satish Singh, Dharmaraj Ravanan, Sanjay Balmuchu (Richard Costa 55), Daniel Zeleny; Denzil Franco, Asley Fernandes (Joshua Rebello 87), Lenny Rodrigues, Saran Singh; Jaison Vales, Balwant Singh
Churchill Brothers suffered a narrow 2-1 away defeat against Singapore’s Home United in a Group E encounter of the AFC Cup on Wednesday evening.
Fazrul Nawaz put the Singapore Cup winners in front but the I-League holders equalised thanks to an own goal from Precious Emuejeraye. Substitute Indra Sahdan scored the all-important winner for the home team in the second half but despite the loss, Churchill Brothers remain second in the group and thus are still in contention for a round of 16 berth.
There were no surprises in the Home United lineup as striker Nawaz was rewarded for his fine form after returning from injury with a starting slot while midfielder Yasir Hanapi also returned from suspension.
Australian Daniel Zeleny was the only foreigner in Churchill Brothers’ squad and he made the eleven with India international Denzil Franco also starting in the AFC Cup for the first time this season. Jaison Vales was supporting Balwant Singh in attack.
Having failed to win on the first three matchdays, Home United were determined to make a fast start and they threatened to score in the first ten minutes with Nawaz and Izzdin Shafiq going close.
At the other end, India forward Balwant was holding up the ball well for his teammates and he did set up Vales, who narrowly missed the target with a shot from just outside the box.
As the half progressed Home United’s dominance increased with Brazilian-Japanese Bruno Castanheira nearly finding the back of the net with a volley while Qiu Li produced a save off Churchill custodian Lalit Thapa.
The Singapore club finally broke the deadlock midway through the first period when Nawaz slotted the ball past Thapa with a powerful shot after some nice work by Hanapi.
But Home United’s lead didn’t last for long as a harmless Churchill Brothers cross was put into the back of his own net by Precious Emuejeraye.
The Indian outfit were level without having to work hard and that further raised the intensity of Home United’s play but their finishing wasn’t good enough. Both Castanheira and Nawaz wasted great chances as the score read 1-1 at the interval.
The hosts started strongly in the second half also with Thapa having to show great reflexes to stop Nawaz’s goal-bound header after a freekick from Lee Kwan-Woo.
Both coaches made positive changes as attacker Sahdan came on for Precious while for Churchill, midfielder Richard Costa replaced defender Sanjay Balmuchu.
The substitution improved Churchill as they had much more control in the game and enjoyed a good spell with skipper Lenny Rodrigues going close from long range.
Home United coach Lee Lim-Saeng brought on another forward as Ahmed Fahmie replaced midfielder Shafiq and the attacking intent of the home side finally paid off as Shahdan latched on to a pass from Castanheira and scored past a helpless Thapa.
With only two other outfield players available in the substitutes bench, Churchill Brothers coach Mariano Dias couldn’t do much to influence the game but Balwant nearly made an impact as his sumptuous volley went inches wide of the target.
The S-League team could have won by a bigger margin but Thapa produced a couple of good saves to deny Li and Sahdan.