AFC Cup: Minerva seeks maiden win in first home match

Minerva is now at third spot in Group E with two points while Manang is at the bottom after losing both their matches so far.

Minerva Punjab played out a goalless draw against fellow Indian side Chennaiyin FC in its group opener in Ahmedabad. (File Photo)   -  PTI

Unbeaten in its two group matches so far, former I-League champions Minerva Punjab would look to turn draws into wins when it takes on Manang Marshyangdi Club of Nepal in the AFC Cup on Wednesday.

After the goalless draw against fellow Indian side Chennaiyin FC in its group opener in Ahmedabad, Minerva was close to registering win in its second match but Abahani Limited came back twice to pick up a point in a 2-2 draw in Dhaka.

Minerva is now at third spot in Group E with two points while Manang is at the bottom after losing both their matches so far.

The Punjab side, who was making its AFC Cup debut as 2017-18 I-League champions, will be playing its first home match at the Kalinga Stadium and would be looking to notch up its maiden win at the continental stage.

Minerva was in deep trouble after the Odisha government withdrew the initial permission to use Kalinga Stadium but was later allowed to use the venue after the intervention of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

It will have to search for venues for the remaining two home matches but as of now the Minerva players can focus on their game against Manang.

For the Nepalese side, however, a defeat on Wednesday would all but end its chances of progression after just three games.

Only one team out of four will progress to Inter-Zone Play-off Semifinals from Group E after six matches each.

For Minerva, the addition of Samuel Lalmuanpuia and Mahmoud Al Amna has given more bite upfront but the Punjab side will have to do better in its defence against the Nepalese side who will be playing a ‘do-or-die’ match.

Coach Sachin Badhade will be expecting his foreign striker Kalif Alhassan to open his account in the AFC Cup.

Manang Marshyangdi is yet to score a goal in the group stage and forwards Afeez Olawale Oladipo and Oluwawunmi Somide will need to step up if it has to keep its qualification hopes alive.

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