Churchill Brothers 3 (Balwant 21, Sawant 47, Shabana 64)
Sporting Clube 1 (Victorino 68)
Churchill Brothers: Lalit Thapa; Denzil Franco, Dharamaraj Ravanan, Sanjay Balmuchu, Raju Yumnam; Saran Singh, Lenny Rodrigues, Abdelhamid Shabana, Alesh Sawant (Jaison Vales 56; Bineesh Balan 77); Balwant Singh, Anthony Wolfe
Sporting Clube: Ravi Kumar; Keenan Almeida, Gonzalo, Joyner Laurenco, Rovan Pereira (Matthew Gonsalves 73) ; Mackroy Peixoto (Stephen Barreto 59), Ogba Kalu, Rowlin Borges, Beevan D’Mello (Joseph Pereira 79); Victorino Fernandes, Boima Karpeh
Churchill Brothers defeated Sporting Clube 3-1 in the 35th Federation Cup final to win their first ever title in this competition. Goals from Balwant Singh, Alesh Sawant and Abdelhamid Shabana saw the I-League champions go three up so Victorino Fernandes’ strike only proved to be a consolation for Sporting Clube.
The triumph sees Churchill Brothers book a place in the 2015 AFC Cup and they become the second Indian club after East Bengal to qualify for Asia’s Europa League for three successive editions.
Churchill Brothers coach Mariano Dias retained the same eleven that started in the semi-final against Mohun Bagan but Sporting gaffer Oscar Bruzone made a couple of changes, one of which was forced as Mackroy Peixoto started in place of the injured Pratesh Shirodkar. Spanish centre-back Gonzalo made his return from suspension in place of veteran Matthew Gonsalves but young Joyner Laurenco kept his place in the team.
Sporting Clube had the game’s first shot on target as almost out of nothing Boima Karpeh forced a save off Lalit Thapa. This first-ever all-Goan Federation Cup final was an even contest in the early stages with Churchill Brothers trying their luck from distance on several occasions but they couldn’t test Sporting Clube goalkeeper Ravi Kumar. The pace of Churchill’s Trinidad & Tobago international Wolfe though was causing problems to the Sporting defence.
The opening goal for Churchill came after a misunderstanding in the Sporting ranks as youngsters Laurenco and Ravi waited for each other to deal with a long ball. That allowed Balwant to get between the two and round Ravi for his fourth goal of the tournament.
Even before Sporting Clube could respond Churchill nearly doubled their advantage as a break on the left saw left back Raju Yumnam bomb forward and find Saran Singh in the box but the youngster’s effort was well saved by Ravi.
Minutes later, Karpeh was involved in a scuffle with Shabana and should have been sent off for retaliation but referee Santosh Kumar only produced a yellow. That decision may not have been the correct one but it kept the final as a contest. However Sporting Clube were unable to find their rhythm as they were misplacing too many passes and the energy in their movement was lacking.
Bruzon’s boys were perhaps still feeling the effects of their marathon semi against Dempo and were lucky not to be further behind before the interval as Wolfe lost his footing when he had an empty goal in front of him while Shabana rattled the woodwork with a world-class half-volley.
There were no changes for either side at the break but Churchill had the best possible start to the second half as teenager Sawant made it 2-0. Wolfe used his pace to get past Rovan Pereira and played a low cross into the box which was touched on to the feet of Sawant by Ravi. The 19-year-old, who is a product of the Brasil Futebol Academia in Goa (run by Brazilians Beto and Jose Barreto), calmly found the back of an empty net.
Sporting Clube had a mountain to climb at 2-0 and the introduction of Stephen Barreto in place of Peixoto didn’t change their fortunes. The Flaming Oranje tried to attack in numbers and in the process were left exposed at the back with custodian Ravi often caught in no man’s land.
Churchill Brothers predictably tripled their lead from a counter attack after Saran produced a good through ball for Shabana who slotted the ball past Ravi. It looked game over at that stage but Sporting’s India international Victorino soon pulled one back as he beat Thapa after being played through by Ogba Kalu.
It was Victorino’s fourth goal of the tournament but his strike didn’t really spark a Sporting Clube comeback while Dias’ side continued to look dangerous on the break. Churchill Brothers could have easily won by a bigger margin but Shabana and Wolfe wasted golden opportunities. Bruzon accepted defeat in the closing stages as he introduced veterans Joseph Pereira and Gonsalves (also the only two survivors of the club’s last Federation Cup runners-up finish in 2006) instead of bringing on Spanish midfielder Arturo Garcia.
Churchill Brothers wore black armbands during the game in memory of the deceased mother of their technical director Subhash Bhowmick, who couldn’t be with the team during the entire tournament. The Red Machines dedicated this piece of silverware to Bhowmick and his family but nothing can be taken away from the contribution of head coach Dias, who became the first Indian tactician to win this trophy since Subrto Bhattacharya in 2007.