Jeje Lalpekhlua did the star turn for Dempo Sports Club as his first-half strike proved decisive in his team's 1-0 win over defending champions Churchill Brothers in an I-League match at Duler Stadium in Mapusa here on Wednesday. (In pic: File photo of Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua)
The all-important goal came in the 15th minute through Jeje Lalpekhlua, which ultimately turned out to be the match winner and helped Dempo move to eighth place with 10 points from eight matches.
Churchill Brothers who are yet to win a match remained on 12th place with three points from eight matches.
Dempo had given an excellent account of themselves in the 3-1 demolition of East Bengal away in Kalyani for their first win in the competition. But the former champions slumped to an unexpected defeat against Bengaluru Football Club, also away, in the next match.
However, Dempo were back to their fluent self as Jeje Lalpekhlua's 14th minute goal proved to be the essential difference between the two struggling sides.
The win will help calm Arthur Papas' nerves going into the fortnight long international break, but it only adds to woes at the other end. Churchill Brothers are now without a win in eight matches and are tied on points (3) with bottom-placed Rangdajied United FC.
Both the teams knew that a win was a must heading into the break. Dempo coach Arthur Papas did not make too many changes, but was forced to start with Jeje upfront as the lone striker due to an injury to Irish first-choice striker Billy Mehmet.
Jeje did not take too much of a time to launch himself into the attack. In the 12th minute he announced his arrival with a smart header that goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya somehow managed to get a hand to, and the crossbar then came to Churchill's rescue.
Two minutes later, Jeje opened Dempo's account after he read Beto's through ball and had all the time in the world to slam the ball past the Churchill goalkeeper.
Churchill relied too much on the counter and one such opportunity should have resulted in the equaliser. Henri Arnaud had a good look at the rival goal from close, but he instead chose to pass the ball to Hugo Machado, where he was easily dispossessed.
Minutes before the change of ends, Bineesh Balan brought a good save out of Subhashish Roy Chowdhury with a stinging shot from just outside the box.
In the second session, Dempo had two good chances to kill the game, but Jeje missed two chances and another volley from Beto sailed too wide.
Churchill technical director Subhash Bhowmick made three quick changes, though nothing worked. All that they got were half chances that neither Henri or Balwant Singh could convert.