I-League: Chennai City vs Minerva Punjab - As it happened

I-League Chennai City vs Minerva Punjab LIVE: Tune in for live updates from the Hero I-League 2018-19 clash between Chennai City FC and Minvera Punjab FC played at Coimbatore's Nehru Stadium.

A win against Minerva Punjab FC will hand Chennai City FC it's maiden I-League title.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Hello and welcome to Sportstar's live blog of the Hero I-League 2018-19 between Chennai City FC and Minerva Punjab FC being played at Coimbatore's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

For the third time in as many years, the I-League title race will be decided on the final match day and the two teams in the fray for the title today are Chennai City FC and East Bengal.

The equation for Chennai City is simple: if Akbar Nawas' men win today, they bag their maiden I-League title. Simple.

For the Red and Maroons though, they'll have to beat Gokulam Kerala FC and hope that Chennai City drops points against Minerva.

It promises to be an enthralling evening of football and Shyam Vasudevan will guide you through the game. Stay tuned for our live updates.


Off goes the ref's whistle and the Chennai City players weep tears of joy. These eleven men have etched their name in history as Chennai City makes a ravishing comeback to beat Minerva Punjab FC 3-1 and claim its first Hero I-League title. And of course, how can we forget 20-year-old Gaurav Bora, who emerged as the star of the evening! Watch out for this name, for greatness awaits him.

READ THE MATCH REPORT HERE

93' GAURAV BORA GETS THE GOAL AGAIN! He does phenomenally well to rise above his marker and head Sandro's corner into the back of the net to make it 3-1. That surely has to be the game!

92' Fine stop here by Nidhin. Manzi receives a perfect cross in the box and he has a shot at goal, but Nidhin does well to get his body in the way and make a strong save.

90' Five minutes of added time here, while the game in Kozhikode will have six minutes added on. Edge of the seat action, this!

89' Relentless attacking from Minerva Punjab here. The Sahcin Badhadhe-led side is throwing bodies ahead but Chennai City is somehow managing to hold on.

85' We're down to the last five minutes and it's super tense affair. If Chennai City even concedes a goal now, East Bengal will go on to win the title! Man, this one is going right down to the wire!

ANOTHER ONE! Ralte scores to make it 2-1 for East Bengal in Kozhikode. Follow the Gokulam Kerala - East Bengal game LIVE here.

81' How did that not go in? Sandro plays a spectacular curling corner into the box and Manzi gets a powerful header, but the ball takes a deflection off the 'keeper and bounces off the post. Nearly a two-goal lead for Chennai City there!

78' Sandro makes a fine cross from the left, but has no support in the box. The Spaniard falls to the floor as soon as he makes the cross and it appears to be a case of the much-feared cramps.

75' Chennai City appears to be in no hurry now, and rightfully so. The players are holding onto the ball for longer and would be hoping to see off the next 15 minutes without any hiccups.

JUST IN: Jaime Santos scores from the spot to bring East Bengal back into the tie and make it 1-1 in Kozhikode. Follow the Gokulam Kerala - East Bengal game LIVE here.

69' Gaurav Bora makes it 2-1 to Chennai City FC! He's found unmarked in the box and he hammers home the cross to give his side the lead for the first time this evening! What a moment for the 20-year-old!

66' Chennai City custodian Mauro Boerchio has been forced to make two fine saves in just as many minutes.

News from Kozhikode: Gokulam has scored! Marcus Joseph finds the back of the net to make it 1-0 to the home side! East Bengal in all sorts of trouble now.

61' OUCH! Akashdeep makes a terrible, studs up challenge on Kaplan and the Chennai City attacker is screaming in pain. Surely, that had to be a booking but the ref thinks otherwise.

60' How did Manzi miss that?! Sriram plays a looping cross from the left towards Manzi and the Spaniard had the goal at his mercy, but misses the target altogether.

56' PEDRO MANZI SENDS THE GOALKEEPER THE WRONG WAY AND SCORES HIS 21st GOAL TO MAKE IT 1-1! Manzi now becomes the top-scorer of the I-League. If Chennai City wins the I-League, Manzi will become the second man since Sunil Chhetri to win the league and emerge as the top-scorer.

55' PENALTY! Akashdeep handles the ball in the box and the ref has awarded Chennai City a penalty! Can Manzi equalise?

53' UPRIGHT! Edwin lets one rip from the edge of the box and beats the 'keeper, but the upright denies him. That's only Chennai City's second shot on target! 

49' CLOSE! Quero is played through on goal with just the 'keeper to beat, but an alert Boerchio races off his line to win the ball.

46' Much like the first half, the home side makes a strong start and wins a freekick on the edge of the box. However, the set-piece does not trouble the Minerva defence.

Chennai City has enjoyed more possession in the opening 45, but has been strangled for space in the attacking third and has had only one shot on target.

45+3' CHANCE! A long ball floats into the box and Manzi finds himself sandwiched between two defenders, and can't get past either. The Spaniard vehemently appeals for a corner but the ref says nothing doing. And that will be the last play of the opening half.

45' The fourth official had signalled that we will have three minutes of additional time. The announcement is accompanied by the rain now!

43' Sandro and Manzi have co-ordinated well, but are clearly missing the services of the oh-so-influential Nestor Gordillo.

41' That's more like it. Chennai City attacks on the counter with some clever passing and Manzi delivers a fine ball into the box, but its just beyond Kaplan's reach.

40' Chennai City defence caught napping! A pinpoint cross finds Roland on the right, but he can't convert. This has to be a wake up all for the Chennai City defence because Roland was completely unmarked!

38' There's the first booking of the game. Arashpreet Singh throwads a heavy tackle on Manzi  and the latter is visibly incensed by it. He shoves the Minvera defender, and much to his despair, goes into the ref's book.

34' Edwin plays a lovely lob into the box towards Manzi. The Spaniard has his back to the goal and attempts a header, but fouls Nidhin in the process. The 'keeper has been down for a while, perhaps just getting a quick breather.

30' The scoreline continues to favour Minerva at the half-hour mark. Here's an interesting stat: Minerva has scored all of 10 goals this season, while Chennai City has hammered a staggering 45! Another goal, for either side, in the offing?

- It's still 0-0 at Kozhikode! Follow the Gokulam Kerala - East Bengal game LIVE here.

28' A large majority of Chennai City's attacks have come from the left flank thus far. Romario and Sriram have combined well upfront, but the home side has struggled with the final pass.

26' A neat little one-two between Pedro and Romario sees the latter burst into the box, but his cross is poor and evades everyone. Edwin Vanspaul manages to win the ball back in the midfield and crafts a curling cross, but Nidhin Lal leaps high to collect the ball.

24' Stunning move from Minerva. Juan Quero was the architect as he twisted and turned inside the box, but the Chennai City defence acted just in time to parry away the danger. Nervous few minutes for the home side.

21' Chennai City wins its first corner and Pedro has a header on goal, but Caceido does a neat job to clear it. The home side is making repeated forays into the opposition box but is lacking the much-needed finishing touch.

18'  This doesn't look good for Minerva. Their central defender Caceido is down on the pitch and has been stretchered off. First change of the game for Minerva?

17' Half a chance for Pedro. A long ball finds him in the box, he keeps his eye on the bell and receives it well, but just can't get the requisite power. It's an easy save for Minerva 'keeper Nidhin Lal.

14' Sandro's strike is powerful, but it sails well above the post and into the stands.

13' Regin makes a darting run towards the attacking third and is hacked down by Roland. This is well within Sandro's reach. Can he find the back of the net?

10' It's been a terrific opening 10 minutes, with both sides showing no signs of sitting back and playing the waiting game. Minerva has the early lead, but I get a feeling it's not going to remain that way for too long. Sandro has a go at the goal just as I type this, but the Spaniard can't find the target.

- The Gokulam Kerala - East Bengal game remains goalless in the opening 10 minutes. Follow the game LIVE here.

6' Sharp move there from Chennai City. Kaplan makes a fine cross, but neither Sandro not Romario can get a decent touch.

3' MINERVA SCORESSS! What a fantastic start for the visiting side. Roland is completely unmarked in the box and times his jump perfectly to nod in Juan Barraso's curling freekick and make it 1-0!

1' Pedro Manzi has a shot within the opening 20 seconds! His shot is blocked, but he has made his intentions very clear.

◙ Ninety minutes is all that separates Chennai City from a historic I-League title! And it's only fitting that current table-topper Chennai City plays the defending champion Minerva Punjab!
◙ The players are on the pitch and we're minutes away from kick-off! Sit tight and stay tuned for our lives updates.

◙ Look who's here! "I am happy to be back in Coimbatore. I won't forget these fans, they gave me so much love. I am excited to see them involved in a title match and I hope they win," says former Chennai City FC man.

Michael Soosairaj
 

 

◙ There's been a change in Chennai City FC's starting line up. Roberto Eslava has been put on the bench and Tarif Akhand will start.

◙ We're exactly 30 minutes away from this big-ticket clash and the stands are slowly filling up at Coimbatore's Nehru Stadium. What are your predictions? Do you think Akbar Nawas' men can script history today? Have your say here:

 

Here's the man himself, Nestor Gordillo! "We are prepared to win this match today." says the Chennai City FC talisman.

 

Line ups, line ups!

 

◙ Despite no active promotion, Chennai City FC has averaged over 5,000 supporters in its nine home matches in Coimbatore. How you ask? Aashin explains: Chennai City's tryst with destiny in home away from home

◙ Chennai City FC will miss the services of the influential Nestor Gordillo owing to an accumulation of bookings. Will his absence cost the side the title?
READ:- How costly will Justin, Nestor's absence be for title-chasing Chennai City, East Bengal?

◙ Our reporter Aashin Prasad is covering the game live. Here's his preview:

Chennai City a win away from history

When Chennai City FC kicked off the I-League with a win on the opening day of the season, it would have been difficult to foresee the club topping the points table for a grand total of 129 days.

For over 18 weeks, the club has repeatedly defied predictions and now earns itself the tag of 'favourite' for the crown. On Saturday, Akbar Nawas' men would certainly want to conjure the magic on the final day of the season against Minerva Punjab and go on to bag their maiden I-League championship.

RELATED| Confident East Bengal prepped for title decider

For Chennai City, which is on 40 points, a victory at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore will see the side lift the title in front of its own fans. The red-hot away form of the chasing East Bengal, which trails by a point and plays Gokulam Kerala in Kozhikode concurrently, could possibly play on the minds of the host.

Chennai City's impressive form at home will, however, hold it in good stead ahead of thefixture. The side has picked up 23 points from a possible 27 in nine matches while scoring a remarkable 26 goals in Coimbatore.

While playing down the home advantage, coach Nawas also stressed that he and his players are not bothered about the outcome of East Bengal’s game. “I tell my players that we have (the fate of the title) in our hands. East Bengal will beat Gokulam. 100 per cent! So why worry about the match? So now we can focus on our game,” he said. 

Spanish striker Pedro Manzi, who is the division's top-scorer with 20 goals, in tandem with compatriot Sandro Rodriguez (nine goals) will hold the key for Chennai City on the day. Attacking midfielder Nestor Gordillo (eight goals) will miss the game through suspension. Pre-match training indicated that striker Jozef Kaplan will slot into the starting XI.

RELATED| How costly will Justin, Nestor's absence be for title-chasing Chennai City and East Bengal?

Nawas acknowledged the talk of pressure surrounding the title race. “Pressure is here. I won’t lie about it by asking my players to go out and enjoy the game,” he said.

Last season's champion Minerva has endured a poor defence of its championship and currently languishes in the 10th position. Despite escaping relegation, Minerva coach Sachin Badadhe insisted that his team was not here to be bystanders to Chennai City’s procession to the title. “Definitely, we are going for three points. The pressure is on Chennai City and not on us. We are going to go for it (the win),” he said.

 

Chennai City has struggled to play its natural attacking game against the physically superior sides this season —Real Kashmir and Churchill Brothers — but Badadhe said his team would not be adopting a similar strategy on Saturday. 

A championship win for Chennai City would mean Nawas would have achieved in his first year in what was supposed to be a three-year process. “Whatever happens tomorrow, it’s still a process. But we want the end result to be in our favour. We need to find a way to influence the process," said Nawas.