Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014

Relegation battle turns sour

Written by Mihir Vasavda | Mumbai | Posted: April 29, 2014 3:45 am | Updated: April 29, 2014 5:30 pm

Defending champions Churchill Brothers survived relegation with a 2-1 win over Salgaocar in their final I-League match on Monday. But the win was controversial and Mohammedan Sporting, who were consequently demoted to the second division, are mulling legal action. Mohammedan will also make an appeal to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) after describing Churchill’s win as ‘fishy’.

Churchill and Mohammedan Sporting were the two teams locked in the relegation battle going into the final round of matches, which concluded on Monday.

Mohammedan’s win over Mumbai FC on Sunday took their season’s tally to 24 and put them two points ahead of Churchill, who were supposed to take on Salgaocar on Monday.

A defeat or a draw would have made Churchill the first-ever I-League champions to be relegated to the second division.

But a series of incidents which favoured Churchill — and described by Mohammedan officials as ‘dicey’ — eliminated the Kolkata side from the league.

A controversial penalty, which resulted in a Salgaocar player putting the ball in his own net and a power black-out towards the closing stages of the match, a rare occurrence in Goa, have raised quite a few eye-brows. It is learnt that the match commissioner J Ravishankar of Delhi also summoned referee Rahul D’Sa after the match.

“We will meet our lawyers tomorrow morning and decide the future course of action. Looking at the incidents that took place on the field on Monday, we doubt if the match was played in true spirit. There was something fishy and dicey,” Mohammedan assistant general secretary Raju Ahmed said.

“We know what kind of stuff goes on behind the scenes. We will consult our lawyers before making any further statements on this issue.”

Churchill were awarded a controversial penalty in the sixth minute by D’Sa and even though Salgaocar goalkeeper Karanjit Singh saved Anthony Wolfe’s attempt, defender Augustin Fernandes tried to make an acrobatic clearance but the ball ended up at the back of his own goal.

Salgaocar, chasing the second position on the table, which would have given them an AFC Cup spot, equalised in the 20th minute through Darryl Duffy but India striker Balwant Singh restored Churchill’s lead in the 65th minute.

However, when Salgaocar stepped up the pressure in their pursuit of the second goal, darkness engulfed the stadium in the 80th minute when the lights went off.

It took 11 minutes before play resumed and Churchill players, refreshed from the short break, managed to hang on to their lead and survived relegation. The win took Churchill Brothers’ tally to 25 points, one point above Mohammedan Sporting who finished last with 24 points.

Mohammedan said they had requested the AIFF to conduct all the final round matches simultaneously so that no team gets an unfair advantage. However, the federation did not heed to their repeated requests. “We have been asking them for the last two weeks fearing something like this would happen. Our main grouse is that they did not conduct the final round matches on the same day and at the same time. Churchill had continued…

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