Churchill Brothers claimed a dramatic stoppage-time victory over Aizawl FC, winning 2-1 at the Fatorda Stadium in Margao, Goa on Saturday. Dawda Ceesay broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute before Aizawl leveled the scores in the last minute of regulation time through Paul Ramfangzauva. Churchill left it late but claimed the three points in the fourth minute of stoppage-time, thanks to Willis Plaza. Also Read - AIFF Approves New Foreigners' Rule in I-League, Says U-17 Women WC Postponement Won't Affect India's Preparation
Fernando Tavares made wholesale changes to his previous eleven which suffered a stoppage-time defeat at home to Chennai City. Kalif Alhassan was reinstated to the line-up with Robert Primus also returning at the back. Mapuia started on the left with Hafis Mohammedali on the other flank while Willis Deon Plaza settled for a place on the bench. Also Read - After Contract Terminations, East Bengal Footballers to Approach AIFF Through Players' Association
In the other dugout, Aizawl gaffer Stanley Rozario sported an unchanged line-up, hoping to reap similar fruit as they did against TRAU. Also Read - We Had a Good Opportunity to Win I-League This Season: Gokulam Midfielder Amiri
The heat map of the goalless first half could be traced mostly in midfield with either side struggling to weave clear chances on goal. The hosts did knock on the door on a couple of occasions in quick succession. A deep cross from the Churchill half found Mapuia, who did well to run out wide before playing a lovely give and go with Mohammedali. After having made enough space for himself, Mapuia struck towards goal but his peach of an effort rattled the woodwork.
Churchill kept possession with Dawda Ceesay on the ball, trying to make the most of their newfound ascendency. His weighted cross took a deflection off Ponif Vaz before falling to Adolfo Pedro, but the chance went begging.
More drama unfolded in the second-half. It didn’t seem that way initially after the half had resumed. It was unfolding in a seemingly similar manner as the first but the ripples of chaos arrived in the 73rd minute.
Mapuia went on a fishing trip with the ball at his feet, having made a wonderful solo run but took too much time to get his shot away when he was inside the 18-yard box. With Joseph Adjei having thwarted the Manipuri winger’s momentary hazard, Aizawl seemed to have averted danger and were playing out from the back.
The ball fell to skipper Alfred Jaryan, who tried switching flanks but instead, committed a schoolboy error and gave possession away to Ceesay, who wasted no time in latching onto the loose ball and got his shot away. His effort took a deflection on its way in, allowing Mawia in goal no chance.
Aizawl didn’t give up on the chase and clawed their way back to level terms in the 90th minute. Joe Zoeherliana’s long throw-in was headed out by Abu Bakr but fell straight to Paul Ramfangzauva, who volleyed it with his left to score a belter of an equaliser.
The match was yet to take another dramatic turn. Having suffered a stoppage-time loss to Chennai City last week, it was Churchill’s turn to script their own redemption. A desperate throw-in from Jovel Martins led to a scramble in the box with a flurry of red and white shirts vying for the ball. Eventually, it fell to skipper Abu Bakr, whose shot was blocked, but Plaza was on and to turn it into the net, and claim the precious three points for his side.
With the result, Churchill have now climbed back to the top four with 16 points on the board, while Aizawl remain on seventh with 14 points. Willis Deon Plaza was named the Hero of the Match.