Hero Super Cup Qualifiers: Willis Plaza scores brace as Churchill defeat Delhi Dynamos

Churchill Brothers registered a 2-1 come from behind victory over Delhi Dynamos in the first match of the Hero Super Cup 2018 which got underway in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha on Thursday.

Hero Super Cup

Riding on a brace from Trinidadian Willis Plaza, Churchill now enter the main draw of the tournament scheduled to begin on March 31 and will face Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan in the Pre-Quarters. The Goan outfit overcame a cautious start to get over the line in extra-time, after Kalu Uche had given the Delhi side a fifth minute lead.

At the Kalinga Stadium, Churchill, who were placed ninth in the Hero I-League and faced relegation, upset the six match unbeaten run of the Indian Super League outfit. The Lions got a goal as early as the fifth minute when Kalu Uche, latched on to a ball just outside the box on the left after a neat 1-2 with Nandhakumar, before unleashing a pile-driver leaving Churchill custodian Ricardo Cardozo hopelessly out of position.

Delhi continued to dominate posession. Romeo Fernandez found Uche again in the 12th minute with a wonderful cross bringing out a neat save from Cardozo. A minute later, Lalianzuala Changte missed with a clear sight at goal from inside the box. Churchill slowy started to find their feet into the game.  In the 29th minute, Britto cut in from the right and found Nicolas free from what appeared to be a deflected cross off a Delhi Dynamos defender, inside the box. His neat trapping and finish was disallowed for off-side.

In the 32nd minute, Churchill restored parity when Plaza controlled the ball with a superb first touch to drill it at the near post.  A feeble effort from Changte during added time was collected easily as the teams went into the lemon break.

Also Read: Mumbai City FC are not taking ‘Agile’ Arrows lightly

Churchill bolstered their midfield by bringing Israel Gurung for Yendremban Meitei at the start of the second half. Meanwhile Delhi had also effected a substitution with Seityasen Singh replacing Romeo Fernandez in the midfield. Both sides created opportunities and missing with equal disdain. Mirabaje’s effort from a free kick in the 56th minute sailed over while Plaza’s 61st minute brought about a good save from Irueta.

While Delhi were still ahead in possession and were pressing hard, their efforts to weave through the Churchill defense lacked enough imagination and penetration. Churchill on the other hand seemed to have embarked upon a strategy of soaking in the pressure and trying to release Plaza with the long ball from their own half, which was causing problems for the Delhi defence.

Both sides tried hard for the winner and effected their second substitions in the 85th minute. Churchill got in Oneyama for Bektur while Delhi replaced Changte with David Ngaihte. It was still Plaza, who by the end of 90+4 minutes of added time who had not only created but also missed the most chances to score for both sides.

As expected a very sluggish first 15 minutes of extra time saw both teams creating half-chances at best, but Willis Plaza breathed life into the second, when at the very start of it, an innocuous long ball from Jovel Martins from deep inside the Churchill defence, saw Plaza trap beautifully over two defenders inside the Delhi box and neatly wrong-foot the Delhi keeper to beat him again at the near post. His 106th minute strike thereby, securing the win for the I-League side.

Also Read: Despite criticism, Jeje stands out for Chennaiyin

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