Punjab State League: Minerva’s title aspirations over
(Image credit-Minerva Punjab FC)
Mohali: Minerva Punjab succumbed to their first defeat of the season losing 1-2 to last year’s runners-up Punjab Police in their final match of the 31st Punjab Football League at the Sri Guru Hargobind Stadium on Friday. With the title up for grabs, Minerva needed a win but failed agonizingly short despite putting up a tough fight.
Playing a must win encounter, coach Juan Luis Perez Herrera named a strong line-up aware of his opposition’s weakness, having played them earlier in the league, that ended in a 1-1 draw. Former U-19 goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh returned to the team, while new recruit Bhutanese Chencho got his first start in an important clash.
Both the teams started on an attacking mode as the goalkeepers of either sides were kept busy for most part of the early 15 minutes. It looked an open game but Minerva, as has been the norm, looked more threatening on the counter and could have well gone ahead not once but as many as three times. However, fortune deserted them as Girik Khosla, Kassim Aidara, Sukhdek Saini all missed easy chances. They were sure to rue when Punjab Police eventually took the lead in the 34th minute.
Minerva had multiple chances to equalise but the Punjab custodian was upto the task while many we’re short of target as most went out or above the bar.
Desperate for a goal, coach Perez brought in Moinuddin in favour of Arshpreet Singh and replaced the last match hero Frenchman Kassim Aidara with Japanese Toshiya Hosoe at the heart of the defence, to provide some stability. The substitutions looked to have worked fine for the Chandigarh based side as Minerva found regular space and created several openings. Two of Moinuddin’s free-kicks even hit the woodwork and hitting the crossbar is a bad omen in football, Minerva failed to win it.
With the home side deperate for a win, the defenders regularly over-stepped the line, leaving the defence open and vulnerable to attacks and Punjab Police utilised just this scoring on the counter in the 67th minute. But their joy was short-lived when Girik pulled one back two minutes later. However despite Minerva’s late flourish Punjab Police held on to the lead and saw out the match.
Although their first defeat of the season, it came at a wrong possible time for Minerva Punjab, taking them out of the run for the coveted trophy. However, despite losing the trophy by a whisker the Chandigarh team has showed true potential and now looks well-prepared for the upcoming I-League.