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I-League: Sabia's late goal fetches Sreenidi Deccan full points over Churchill Brothers

Published at :February 04, 2024 at 08:46 PM
Modified at :February 04, 2024 at 08:46 PM
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(Courtesy : AIFF Media)

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The late goal helped keep Sreenidi Deccan in the I-League title race.

It took a late winner from Eli Sabia for Sreenidi Deccan to beat Churchill Brothers at the Tilak Maidan on February 4, 2023. The late goal kept Sreenidi’s dreams of a first I-League title intact, even as they trail far behind Mohammedan Sporting on the points table.

In a fairly tempered start, it was Sreenidi Deccan who controlled most of the tempo, their passing and midfield gile leaving Churchill’s enforcers in the cold. In a series of setpieces early in the game, Sreenidi showed their aerial threat, imposing themselves on a fairly flaccid Churchill defence.

The first goal duly, and deservedly, arrived in the 11th minute, David Castaneda heading in from a mere two yards from Rilwan Hassan’s cross from the right. Despite Castaneda taking the applause, it was the latter’s inch-perfect cross that really set up the simple finish.

Castaneda had a chance to double his and the team’s tally on the half-hour mark, latching on to another cross from the right flank, from point-blank range. Somehow, Bilal Khan was at the right place at the right time and palmed it out. Churchill finally created something remotely worthwhile, deep in first-half injury time, Rahul Raju cutting in to fire into a crowd of Sreenidi defenders as the ball bounced to safety. It was the best they had.

In a much-improved second-half performance, Churchill finally started putting the Sreenidi defence under pressure, but lacked composure in the final third to really test the goalkeeper. It took till the 84th minute for them to get a clear-cut chance, and they did not let it go to waste.

Picking up the ball in midfield, Stendly Fernandes played a brilliant through ball to Elhadji Karim Samb. Churchill’s latest signing ran through before finishing deftly past Albino Gomes to serve up the equaliser.

Just when it seemed the game was done, Sreenidi provided some late drama, deep in injury time. From Lalromawia’s cross Eli Sabia headed the ball into the bottom left to spark wild celebrations and ensure Sreenidi’s faltering title dreams survived — for now.

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