Churchill Brothers beat Salgaocar FC 2-1 at Vasco under extremely contentious circumstances to escape relegation to the second division and thus avoided becoming the first club to get relegated as the defending champions of the league. Mohammedan Sporting will now get relegated instead, despite beating Mumbai FC 2-1 on Sunday.
Only a Churchill win would stave off relegation and despite playing against the team third in the league, the defending champions managed to get all 3 points, which has led to a huge outcry in Kolkata. The game at Vasco has left Mohammedan apoplectic, with the club threatening lawsuits against Churchill, Rahul D’Sa (the referee officiating the match) and the AIFF.
The game was barely 5 minutes old when D’Sa adjudged defender Chika Wali to have brought down Churchill striker Jaison Vales inside the box. Anthony Wolfe stood up to take the penalty, only to see it saved by Salgaocar ‘keeper Karanjeet Singh. And here is where the first controversy happened.
After Karanjeet’s save, the ball fell to Salgaocar defender Augustine Fernandes, who had the simple job of clearing the ball. Yet despite being under no pressure whatsoever, he somehow, inexplicably managed to kick the ball into his own net. The Salgaocar defense looked around in horror as the Churchill team peeled off, celebrating.
Darryl Duffy brought the game back to parity after superb work down in the wings by Dudu in the 20th minute, but a number of questionable calls by referee D’Sa never allowed Salgaocar to get into the flow of the game, and the home team took advantage of this by taking the lead through a Balwant Singh shot. Salgaocar was enraged – there was a foul in the build-up that had not been given, but still they pressed on for an equalizer. And that was when the second great controversy of the game happened.
With Salgaocar attacking with great pace and venom, and the Churchill defenders tiring, it seemed only a matter of time before Salgaocar equalized. But then, in the 80th minute, the lights in the stadium went off, and didn’t come on till another 10 minutes. By then, the Salgaocar players had lost their rhythm and the Churchill defenders had had time to recover enough strength to shut out the Salgaocar attacks.
In the other games, Champions Bengaluru FC came from behind to ensure that they finished the season on a high after beating Sporting Clube de Goa 1-2 at the Nehru Stadium, Goa. Boima Karpeh had given the home side the lead in the first half but two goals in the second half by Robin Singh and Beikhokhei Beingaichho ensured that Bengaluru finished the campaign with 47 points.
Meanwhile, a dominant second half display by East Bengal in their 0-3 victory over United SC ensured that the Kolkata giants finished second in the league, thus snapping up the second and final AFC qualifier place. Abhishek Das, Edeh Chidi and Semilen Doungel scored for the Red and Gold Brigade to finish as runners-up for the third time in four seasons.
In the final match of the 2013-14 season of the I-League, Dempo brushed aside its earlier disappointments to comfortably beat Pune FC at the Balewadi Stadium 0-3. The Goan side, which was once threatening Bengaluru’s pole position in the league had a run of games where they got only 5 points from 6 games and thus dropped in the league. Yet a spirited performance on the concluding day of the I-League saw them finish at 4th place in the league. A brace from Haroon Fakhruddin and one from substitute Jeje consigned Pune FC to their third game without a win in a row.