The visitors are denied by a late Red Machines goal.
Churchill Brothers secured a hard-fought 1-1 draw over Gokulam FC in their Hero I-League encounter at the Tilak Maidan, Vasco on Saturday (February 24, 2018) which helped the Red Machines find some breathing space after three frustrating losses on a trot.
Henry Kisekka (72′) opened the scoring for Gokulam Kerala FC before an injury-time strike from Frincis Onyeama Okechukwu (90’+2′) salvaged a point for Churchill Brothers at their home ground.
With seventeen points, Churchill Brothers now move to the eighth place over Chennai City FC who drop down to ninth after suffering a heavy defeat to Kingfisher East Bengal this afternoon.
With relegation staring at them, Churchill Brothers introduced new foreign signings Jeancy Zunapio Siyo and Frincis Onyeama Okechukwu straight into the team.
In this crucial lower-half of the table clash, both teams started strong with no hesitation in taking each other on.
Gokulam defender Daniel Addo lost possession near the half-way line while Onyeama picked it up and ran down the flank before squaring it to Zunapio but the forward ended up missing a sitter In the 10th minute.
In the first half hour of play, Gokulam were the side dictating the tempo as they had the bulk of possession and stretched the home side. Churchill suffered a massive blow when Osagie Monday went down with an injury.
The Churchill captain was soldiering on until that point but he couldn’t carry on and had to be replaced by Pawan Kumar.
Churchill kept fending off Gokulam forays and Provat Lakra had a go at goal which was saved by James Kithan. It turned out to be a 0-0 stalemate at the stroke of half-time.
Churchill Brothers started the second half with a serve. The likes of Ceesay, Frincis and others were clicking better as the game opened up. However, it was Gokulam again who created a goal-scoring chance.
Their under-22 player Arjun Jayaraj ran clear on the left but his chip was met with a close-range save by Kithan.
In a bid to force the issue, Alfred Fernandes introduced Nicholas Fernandes and Bektur Talgat.
However, Bino George also made a crucial change as he took off Kivi Zhimomi and introduced Mahmood Alajmi. It turned out to be an inspired substitution as the silky skills of Alajmi was on full display.
After gliding around the field and looking for openings in the Churchill defence, the Bahrain man finally found one.
Arjun Jayaraj engaged in a brilliant one-two with striker Henry Kisekka where the youngster laid it off for Kisekka to do the final damage work and the visitors were 1-0 up in the 72nd minute.
They came close to scoring again when Jayaraj’s thumping header hit the crossbar much to the respite of the Red Machines.
However, Churchill didn’t give up and Onyeama salvaged a point in the added minutes. The fresh recruit didn’t let Alajmi overshadow him as he struck a solo goal.
Oneayama weaved his way through the Gokulam defence and rounded up Bilal twice to slam home the equaliser.
Gokulam will next face defending champions Aizawl on 2nd March away from home and Churchill Brothers will host Mohun Bagan on the next day.