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I-League   /   Churchill Brothers   /   Rajasthan United   /  

I-League 2022-23: Rajasthan United upset heavyweights Churchill Brothers

Rajasthan United FC picked up all three points in their Hero I-League 2022-23 season opener against Churchill Brothers FC Goa, registering a 2-1 win at the GMC Bambolim Stadium on Tuesday, November 15, 2022.

Substitute Britto PM’s second-half strike proved to be the decisive goal of the game, after Melroy Assisi’s headed goal was cancelled out by Churchill’s Abdoulaye Sane at the end of the first half. Rajasthan defender Hardik Bhatt was sent off towards the end of the match after a second bookable offense.

The first half saw the Red Machines start well and create a couple of early chances through Kingslee Fernandes and Lamgoulen in the first and fourth minutes respectively. With 15 minutes played, the hosts were also forced into an early substitution as forward Manu Giuli got injured and was replaced by Sane.

After absorbing the early pressure, Rajasthan United began to claw their way back and took the lead in the 29th minute after sustained pressure. Initially, Nuha Marong fired a shot that was turned around the post for a corner by goalkeeper Nora Fernandes. From the resulting set-piece, Melroy Assisi was on hand at the far post to head the ball into the back of the net.

Fernandes was forced into a couple of sharp saves only a few minutes later, collecting a shot from Lalremsanga and then rushing off his line excellently to deny Ragav Gupta from shooting. The stops proved to be pivotal as they allowed the hosts to change the momentum and end the half strongly.

In the 39th minute, skipper Momo Cisse found himself in space to shoot from a corner-kick opportunity but mistimed his volley. However, the equaliser came soon enough in the first minute of added time as a chipped pass found Tana in the penalty area, who played in a lovely first-time cross, which was bundled in by the substitute Sane as the teams headed into the breather on level pegging.

It was the Red Machines that continued to press after the restart, creating a flurry of chances. In the 47th minute, Milad Parvar was played in by Sane and was one-on-one with the keeper but he put his shot over the bar. Kingslee shot wide from a narrow angle minutes later and in the 54th minute, Parvar once again fired his effort over the crossbar.

Rajasthan United looked to make their way back into the game, trying their luck from long range. Joseba Beitia’s powerful shot in the 57th minute was palmed away by the Churchill keeper. Five minutes after, Martin Chaves headed the ball off the target after getting on the end of a fine cross by Lalremsanga from the right.

With 20 minutes left to play, Rajasthan’s Ragav Gupta rattled the crossbar with a thundering shot from outside the penalty area. In the next attack, it was Churchill who almost went ahead after Parvar cut in from the right flank but placed his effort on the wrong side of the post.

The decisive blow came in the 75th minute as the visitors regained the lead through substitute Britto PM. Gupta’s cross was flicked on at the near post and Chaves came up with a delicious backheeled pass to serve it on a plate for Britto, who finished with aplomb.

The hosts piled on the pressure in search of the leveller towards the end. They were handed a lifeline in the 84th minute after RUFC defender Hardik Bhatt was sent off for a second bookable offense. From the resulting free-kick, Sane’s effort was way off target.

Rajasthan almost made it three with three minutes left as Chaves raced into the penalty area after a blistering counterattack, but his final shot left a lot to be desired.

Seven minutes of added time were signalled by the fourth official as Churchill threw the kitchen sink at their opponents, who looked to defend deep and hold on to the lead. In the end, the Rajasthan outfit did so successfully, thanks in part to an excellent goal-line clearance by Aidar Mambetaliev, as the match ended with the score-line at 1-2 in favour of the visitors.

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