Panchkula: William Opoku Aseidu scored the lone goal as Minerva Punjab clinched their maiden I-League title defeating Churchill Brothers 1-0 at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium here on Thursday.
Courtesy the loss Churchill Brothers have now been relegated. They finished on ninth with 17 points from 16 games, but since bottom placed Indian Arrows are a development team and are immune to relegation, Churchill faced the heat.
Minerva finished with 35 points, three clear of second placed Neroca who were held to 1-1 draw against East Bengal – who stand on fourth.
It came as a no surprise that a team playing their only second year in the top-division were crowned as the I-League champions after Aizawl had accomplished such a feat. But what made Minerva’s journey more special was how they unearthed their own style of play, something that have troubled most teams throughout the season.
In a season where four teams were still in the contention going into the final day, Minerva unlike the three other teams had their fate on their own hands and endured no hiccups with a comfortable win over the ‘Red Machines’.
Churchill defended deep forcing Minerva into delivering long balls that their defenders Monday Osagie and Hussain Eldor had no qualms in defending. But it gave the hosts plenty of width in the wings, something they used to the fullest.
It took just 16 minutes for Minerva to score and was after their pursuit of catching Churchill off the blocks with long balls went begging.
Finding no opening through the middle Chencho Gyeltshen went right and it was his low cross that led to the opening goal. It was one that should have been a regular save for Churchill custodian Ricardo Cardozo but he in pressure from Sangwan spilled it and Opoku made no mistake to tap-in from a goal-melee.
But such was Churchill’s defending that Minerva could well won by a bigger margin and Opoku could have ended with a hat-trick. The first came into the 38th minute and was after Cardozo spilled the ball a second time within a gap of 15 minutes while the second was from a long ranger, alike one that he scored against the Arrows.
Minerva’s continued miss however could have given Churchill some hope, had they managed to find the net from the limited chances that they found. Britto came close for them twice in the second-half and should have buried both.
A Ceesay corner headed down by Plaza, reached Britto whose cheeky back-heel instead of a regular shot had no power and Minerva goalkeeper Kiran Limbu had no problems. Minutes later in the 65th, the winger had another go after being set clear by Plaza’s audacious ball.
His shot was however parried away by Limbu and it kind of showed the kind of days Churchill have had his season.