Yakubu’s hat-trick propels Churchill to victory
Margao, India March 9 -- Riding on a fine hat-trick by Ghana's Yakubu Yusuf, bottom-rungers Churchill Bros came from behind to trounce fancied Sporting Clube de Goa 3-1 in their Round 11 exchange of the ONGC Cup 9th NFL at Nehru stadium, Fatorda, here today.
The teams were tied 1-all at the breather. It was befitting that Churchill's best performance in the NFL had been scripted by their most trusted player Yakubu whose elusive magical form was on display today for the first time this season.
Churchill roared back from deficit to find the back of the rival net thrice after Nigerian Edeh Chidi had drawn first blood for Sporting with a neat header in the 25th minute. Yakubu then restored parity off a penalty conversion in the 34th minute and returned with vengeance after the break to strike twice with goals in the 63rd and 87th minutes.
Yakubu's hat-trick was the third achieved so far in the 9th NFL with Nigerians Dudu of Sporting and Ranty Martins of Dempo being the other foreigners to perform this feat. Yakubu raised his personal tally to 7 goals after the first-leg while his team's tally stood at 10 points with two wins, four draws and five defeats. For Sporting, the defeat jolted the team's aspirations of making an upward progress in the league. They still have two more ties (against Vasco and Dempo) to play in the first-leg, and have 14 points from nine outings.
Apart from Yakubu's heroics, Churchill's substitute goalkeeper Marc Mascarenhas, who replaced the injured Vinay Singh in the 19th minute, played a stellar role in his team's big win. Marc showed a lot of grit and determination to ward off a series of marauding attempts from Sporting's trump card Dudu and Edeh Chidi, especially towards the latter half of the match and frustrated the likes of Bibiano and Joseph Pereira from narrowing the deficit.
It was apt that Marc was declared man-of-the match as the tall goalie handled the pressure situations admirably well, after Vinay had to be stretchered out and shifted into the ambulance.
Vinay suffered an head injury when he collided with Chidi in the 18th minute. Sporting's Chidi scored the opening goal off Levino Pereira's diagonal cross in the 25th minute. In the 34th minute, Churchill gained a penalty-kick when Sporting's Vincent Pires handled Sujoy Dutta's goal-bound shot inside the area and referee S Sarcar had no hesitation in pointing towards the dreaded spot. Yakubu made a neat conversion to draw level (1-1)). With the deadlock prevailing, Sporting resumed the second half with renewed vigour as Joseph Pereira and Bibiano threatened to regain the lead in the opening 10 minutes. However, Churchill sneaked ahead against the run of play when Yakubu headed home a measured cross from Roque Barreto in the 63rd minute (2-1). Sporting then retaliated with two counter-moves from Chidi and Joseph Pereira with the former shooting wide from close and the latter being denied a goal by Marc. With three minutes left for the final hooter, Yakubu slammed home a power-packed right-footer off a Ratan Singh wall pass.