Churchill Brothers held on gamely to their first half goal when they got the better of fighting Shillong Lajong by a solitary goal win to close the gap at the top in the 20th round of the I-League, played at Nehru stadium, Fatorda, Margao.
Churchill who held better exchanges and scoring opportunities in the first half scored the all important goal in the 42nd minute through Odafe Okolie to top the scoring chart with 16 goals.
Churchill now collected 32 points to move to third place from 19 matches. While, Shillong lajong remained on 21 points from 20 matches.
Both the teams were evenly poised in the first half. Churchill brothers who held territorial advantage had the first chance to surge ahead in the 6th minute when a combined move between Felix Chimaokwu and Odafe Okolie saw the former shot deflected a defender and went out.
After a brief midfield tussle, Shillong who matched their fancy rivals well made a counter move and had a good chance to take lead but James Gbillee shot out off a cross from Aibor khongjee.
Churchill who enjoyed midfield superiority nearly scored when defender Gouramangi Moirangthem's long ranger, which had a power in it, was punched by rival keeper R Lalthuammawia, the ball deflected the cross bar and off the rebound Felix weak effort was collected by the keeper. Churchill Bros kept pressure on the rival defense, finally scored in the 42nd minute.
Man-of-the-match Felix Chimaokwu who squeezed past a couple of defenders inside the box and send a goal mouth cross which Odafe Okolie scored after missing couple of chances.
Odafe, who was guilty of holding the ball too long could have increased the lead towards the end of the first half but muffed an easy sitter off Felix pass.
Earlier, Ailad Kynta of Lajong made a goal line save off Felix's header.
Lajong also had a clear chance to restore parity in the dying minute of the first half, but Daniel Bidemi who collected a long ball inside the box, beat defender Gouramangi but failed to guide the ball on target as he drove wide off the target.
The visitors were more determined in the second half as they made the moves from the flanks and kept the rivals defense under pressure but the lack of inexperience could not find them the equalizer. Aibor did manage to find the net but was pulled for off side by referee S Suresh.
Lajong made three substitutions in search of the equalizer but failed to score as substitute Anil Gurung who were presented at three opportunities failed to score.
Referee S Suresh showed yellow card to Odafe Okolie of Churchill Brothers.
Churchill talks tough against AIFF
Unperturbed after being issued show cause notice by the AIFF on his comments on match officials, the owner of the defending champions, Musli Power Churchill Brothers remain unfazed and ready to take on the AIFF, asking the governing body for football in India more questions rather than answers.
"Please explain to me under what rules or articles of the constitution or under what powers you have issued the notice," Alemao questioned in his reply to the AIFF.
The AIFF had taken strong exception to Alemao's recent comments against match officials and refereed him to the disciplinary committee.
The statements, AIFF pointed out were in violation of Article 36(5) of the I-league regulations as well as the code of ethics and disciplinary code of the AIFF.
Alemao also demanded to know why invitation cards for the AFC Cup clash between Churchill Brothers and Al Hilal, Yemen, were torn and returned when they were sent to the AIFF.