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I-League: Both Churchill Bros and East Bengal held to draws

677   //    25 Mar 2013, 09:32 IST
This season’s I-League is heading for an interesting finale as both title contenders Churchill Brothers SC and East Bengal Club were held to one-all draws, while defending champions Dempo SC all but dropped out of the title race with a derby loss.Churchill Brothers remain on top of the I-League table after Round 21 with 43 points from 20 matches, while closest rivals East Bengal Club stay two points behind on 41 points and Dempo stay on 35 points from 20 matches.

Table toppers Churchill Brothers SC dropped two value points against a fighting ONGC at the Ambedkar Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Goans were creating more chances in the opening exchanges. In the 7th minute, Henri Antchouet side netted after rounding off ONGC goalkeeper Rehenesh. A few minutes later, Henry’s powerful header off winger Steven Dias’s flag kick went wide. The hosts got their first real chance in the 26th minute when a Yusa Katsumi free-kick saw Jatin Singh Bisht head wide. Bisht tried his luck once again in the 35th minute after being set up by Sachin Gawas on top of the box, but his effort failed to get the past Rehenesh.

After the break, ONGC paid the price for some porous defending from a set piece inside the box. Steven Dias exchanged passes with Denzil Franco after taking a short corner, and it was his shot that deflected into the goal in the 47th minute. The Goan outfit, though, were unlucky to concede the equalizer at the hour mark as Yusa Katsumi’s corner ricocheted off Beto’s thigh into his own goal.

Thereafter, it was Churchill Brothers who were looking for the three points, but defender Wahid Sali saved Santosh Kashyap’s wards the blushes by being at the right place at the right time. India captain Sunil Chhetri‘s sweetly timed half-volley from inside the box came off Sali’s face in the 74th minute and then his left-footer in the 83rd minute flew inches wide.

Earlier in the day, East Bengal Club was forced to split points with Air India when the latter equalised with an injury time goal as their match ended one-all at the Kalyani Stadium yesterday. With temperatures soaring, the match kicked-off in hot and sultry conditions in front of a motley crowd.

The first half was dominated by East Bengal Club and Chidi Edeh should have scored in this half itself, but only on the hour mark did he tap in a cross by Andrew Barisic to put the red-and-gold ahead. This was Chidi’s 15th goal this I-League campaign. Immediately thereafter, East Bengal were denied a penalty when Chidi was illegally brought down in the box and he also the hit post a few minutes later. Towards the end, Air India attacked a tired East Bengal and their efforts were rewarded in injury time when their substute striker Henry Ezeh scored.

On Sunday, Dempo SC lost 0-1 against Sporting Clube de Goa due to a Rowilson Rodrigues own goal.

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I've been reporting about football since 1998 - as founder of IndianFootball.Com, for other publications &amp; have also worked for radio &amp; television. You can follow me on my "Arunava About Football" blog <a href="">ArunFoot</a> &amp; on <a href="">Twitter</a>
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