Margao:Dempo Sports Club took a giant step towards winning the football I-League title after making short work of Churchill Brothers 4-1 in an entertaining 10th round encounter, at Nehru Stadium on Thursday.
Dempo's win over their city rivals opened up a five-point gap at the top as second-placed JCT lost 1-3 to Mahindra United, away in Mumbai. Dempo now have 24 points from 10 matches while Churchill have lost out a big opportunity of joining the title race as they only have 17 points.
Edeh Chidi gave Dempo the lead at the stroke of half time, but they pounded Churchill in the second session with goals from Ranty Martins, Anthony Pereira and Joaquim Abaranches.
Mboyo Iyomi reduced the margin for Churchill at the fag end of the match.
Armando Colaco's side produced vintage football as high-flying Churchill Bros were caught napping for the second time in the I-League. Dempo, at least at the start, appeared to play safe wanting to keep Churchill in check. But once Churchill showed hesitancy at the back, Dempo were quick to pounce on the initiative.
Had Nigerian striker Odafe Okolie not had a rare off day and converted a couple of the several chances they created early in the match, Churchill might have given their fans something to cheer. The Nigerian, highest goal getter in the I-League with 12, was guilty of not making the most of a series of openings in the first session.
When Churchill had the first clear look at the rival goal, goalkeeper Satish Kumar knew little of Odafe's stinging shot from close range, which flew his way. But, much to Odafe and Churchills' dismay, the goalpost stood in between.
Minutes later there was action at the other end, but Anthony Pereira, later named Man of the Match, came up with a weak header after being brilliantly set up by Samir Naik.
Climax Lawrence then came close to scoring for Dempo, but his smart header missed the target by a whisker.
Dempo took the lead a minute before change of ends. Roberto Mendes da Silva curled a free-kick menacingly inside the danger zone where Edeh Chidi escaped his marker and dived full length to nod past Vinay Singh under the Churchill goal.
After the break, Dempo won a dubious penalty with referee K. Sankar initially disallowing Genius Zenith's handball, but reversing his decision after consultations with assistant referee Shaji Kurien.
Ranty Martins made no mistake from the spot sending Vinay the wrong way.
By the 68th minute itself, Dempo had killed the match as a contest as they raced to a 3-0 lead. Anthony Pereira found himself in the right place at the right time to tap the ball inside the nylons following a goal mouth melee and shatter Churchill Bros' hopes of a comeback.
Mboyo Iyomi pulled one back for Churchill with his trademark glancing header. But the 86th minute strike was too little too late for Churchill Bros even though Dempo were forced to make a goal-line save in the very next minute.
Substitute Joaquim Abaranches hammered the final nail in Churchill's coffin in the dying minutes of the match. There was much to appreciate of Edeh Chidi's lay off, but the aplomb with which Abaranches curled the ball past Vinay must have gladdened coach Armando Colaco's heart.