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TRAU come from behind twice to win a thriller

TRAU FC 3 (Billu Teli 57′, Komron Tursunov 67′, Fernandinho 78′ pen.)
Churchill Brothers 2 (Salam Ranjan Singh OG 38′, Kapil Hoble 66′)

IMPHAL: There are not many better ways to avenge a humiliating defeat than the one TRAU FC showed here at the Khuman Lampak Stadium on Friday evening. Leimapokpam Nandakumar Singh’s boys came back from behind twice to beat Churchill Brothers 3-2 in the Hero I-League. They had lost 1-6 to the Goan side in the reverse fixture back in December.

TRAU did not look like a winning side till the end of the first half but somehow completely transformed themselves after the break. The first 45 minutes were mostly about Churchill, and they took the lead in the 38th minute by sheer luck. Salam Ranjan Singh got too anxious about a cross from the right wing from Abdoulaye Sane. None of Sane teammates were in the TRAU box to receive it but Salam Ranjan tried to clear hastily, tapping the ball into his own goal, as goalkeeper Jedidi Haokip could only look on.

However, the Red Pythons must be given credit for not being overwhelmed by that own goal. Both coaches made a change after half-time and both substitutes played crucial roles in lighting up the contest.

Hero of the Match Fernandinho floated in a cross after a short corner from the right in the 57th minute, and Buanthanglun Samte’s replacement Billu Teli headed it in at the far post to make it 1-1.

In the 66th minute, Haokip, who had an exceptional match, made one of his innumerable saves diving to his right as Sane unleashed a booming right-footer from very close. But substitute Kapil Hoble slid in to put the rebound into the net. Churchill were ahead again. But the joy did not last a minute

Fernandinho was the generator again. He cut into the Churchill box from the right, passed to Salam Johnson, whose shot was blocked by a defender. But Komron Tursunov was right there for the ricochet and slotted in.

After that equaliser, the frequency and intensity of TRAU’s attacks increased and that dealt a telling blow on Churchill defender Ponif Vaz in the 76th minute. He got up to head out a lob from behind with Tursunov hovering in the box and ended up handling it. TRAU’s prayers were heard this time. The penalty was taken by Fernandinho, who sent a left-footed grounder into the net, leaving Albino Gomes rooted to his spot.

The scoreline could have changed again had Haokip not made another superb save off Emmanuel Yaghr’s shot from within the box in the 84th minute. In fact, TRAU substitute Khanngam Horam could have scored, too. It was the 90th minute and a defensive error gave him a world of space to run into the Churchill box. But Gomes came a long way out of the box to make a sliding tackle and clear the ball. Churchill’s Uruguyan winger Martin Chaves had a good match, and his efforts were almost rewarded in the next minute. But his clever chip was palmed away for one final time by Haokip.

In the context of the Hero I-League standings, this victory means a lot for TRAU. They are now third on the table with 26 points, even though the first two teams are eight points clear of them.