Willis Plaza struck twice as Churchill Brothers dampened Chennai City's plan of securing their maiden I-League title with a dramatic 3-2 win to keep the title race alive, here Friday. Current I-League table toppers Chennai City drew the first blood in the 29th minute through Sandro R but Plaza (38th) restored parity for the hosts. The Red Machines took the lead through Christ Remi (50') once again but it was Pedro Manzi (69') who did no mistake to convert from the penalty spot. Their efforts went to waste as Hero of the Match Plaza completed his brace (71st) to help his team secure a victory at the Tilak Maidan here.
With this win, Churchill Brothers elevated to the third place with 34 points while Chennai City FC continues to lead the table with 40 points, four points ahead of second-placed East Bengal. East Bengal will now need to win their next match against Minerva Punjab on March 3 to stay afloat in the title hunt.
Anything except a win for the Red and Golds would seal the title for the Southerners, courtesy their superior head-to-head record. Chennai City started on a safe note as unlike their normal attacking style, it seemed they were trying to soak in the pressure with Churchill Brothers pressing hard right from the start. Plaza, Khalid Aucho and Nicholas Fernandes were combining well to breach the Chennai City FC defence time and again but somehow couldn't find a way to finish their attempts.
A foul by Wayne Vaz on Nestor Gordillo earned the visitors a free kick at the top of the box. Spanish midfielder Sandro's free-kick, after a deflection from Plaza, gave Chennai the lead in the 29th minute. Churchill Brothers, thereafter, went on attacking in regular intervals through the combination of Nicholas Fernandes and Khalid Aucho to feed Plaza time and again.
Their efforts soon yielded a result when Plaza successfully tapped it in from an inch-perfect cross by Nicholas Fernandes in the 38th minute. The first half ended with the scoreboard locked at 1-1. The second half began with Chennai pressing hard for the lead but it was again Churchill Brothers who turned around the game on its head.
Following a clever interception, Churchill took the lead soon through Christ Remi taking the scoreline to 2-1 to the hosts' favor. Churchill Brothers thereafter never really stopped trying hard to score their insurance goal but timely interceptions from Chennai City FC ensured the visitors aren't faced with more difficult situations.
Chennai City FC, who played a lot around the midfield Friday, tried a lot from the counter-attacks. Owing to a handball by Wayne Vaz inside the penalty box, Chennai City FC were awarded a penalty. Pedro Manzi made no mistake to restore the parity for Chennai City FC in the 69th minute.
However, Churchill cut their joy short by scoring the eventual winner within two minutes. Thereafter, the game was mostly about Churchill Brothers attacking in bits but missing targets while Chennai City failed to breach the sturdy Churchill defense till the end to confirm a win for the Goan outfit in their final home game.