Defending Champions Minerva Punjab FC kick started their Hero I-League campaign with a draw against Goan Red Machines, Churchill Brothers FC at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Panchkula.
The Warriors of Punjab lined up with a completely revamped squad for the season as Bhaskar Roy was deployed to guard the woodwork followed by Souvik Das, Lancine Toure, Arashpreet Singh and Akashdeep Singh formed the backline. Amandeep Singh and Philip Njoku guarded the centre of the park as Aakash Sangwan and Nongdamba played on the either sides. William Opoku and Manandeep Singh lead the strike.
On the other hand, Churchill’s gaffer Petre Gigiu chose to stick to James Kithan under the sticks. Wayne Vaz, Hussein Eldor, Nenad Novakovic and Nallappan Mohanraj formed the back four. Fredsan Marshall and Lamgoulen Hangshing manned the wings whereas Dawda Ceesay was given the license to roam about freely in the attacking third. Willis Plaza was the solitary target man for Chuchill.
The match started at 2pm with the visitors kicking off the game at Panchkula, but Minerva didn’t loose much time in winning the possession back and were surging forward with long balls everytime they got the opportunity. Soon the Warriors won a corner in the 3rd minute as Ghanian William Opoku delivered a dangerous ball just inside the six-yard box but Churchill’s skipper Ceesay made the important interception. Another chance soon came in minutes later when Amandeep chipped in a wonderful through ball Opoku from the right wing but Churchill’s James Kithan comes out of his line and snuffed out the danger.
Churchill Brothers too started building up pressure on the home team as they got their first chance in the 9th minute when Willis Plaza’s glancing header sails just yards wide of the goal after he connected well to Aucho’s cross on the far post, followed by Cessay’s powerful shot in the 15th minute that saw Minerva Custodian Bhaskar Roy make a jaw dropping save.
The only significant chance fell for Churchill Brothers through Willis Plaza in the 21st minute but a timely finger-tip intervention from Roy averted the danger on that occassion. Plaza played through by Hangshing and the Trinidian did well to skip past his marker but Roy sensed danger and came out of his line to get a touch which dispossessed Plaza.
Both teams went in for the Half Time break with the score board remaining unchanged.
The 2nd Half started on a much more positive note for Minerva the they created a couple of close chances to break the deadlock, On one occasion in the 64th minute, Njoku was perfectly set up by Souvik from the right, The Nigerian had enough time to lock his target but he instead ballooned it over the crossbar.
Minerva gaffer Sachin & Paul Munster threw all their cards on the deck as they brought on Sabeeth Sathyan, Kouame Alexandre and Dilli Ram Sanyasi to add flare to their attack but failed to convert their chances as they had to settle for a draw.
Minerva Punjab FC’s Nigerian Midfielder Philip Njoku was awarded the Man of the Match.
Minerva Punjab next host debutants Real Kashmir FC on October 31st, at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Panchkula.
Courtesy: Minerva Punjab FC