I-League 2018-19: Aizawl FC takes on struggling Minerva Punjab

Minerva, the defending champion, is looking for its first goal in the tourney.

Gift Raikhan (left) speaks at a pre-match press conference in Aizawl. Photo: AIFF

Aizawl FC, the 2016-17 champion, hosts defending champion Minerva Punjab in an I-League contest at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Aizawl on Saturday.

Both teams are languishing in the lower half of the points table; Aizawl is placed ninth with two points from three matches, while Minerva is right at the bottom (11th), with a single point from its two matches. While Aizawl has scored thrice in its three games so far, one off a penalty and another of a set-piece, Minerva has not managed to get on the board.

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For Aizawl, Liberian striker Ansumanah Kromah has been guilty of extreme profligacy. Lalremsanga, who had a good game in the club’s opening game against Shillong and has not played since, might be an option for coach Gift Raikhan. The back four, led by Nigerian Kareem Nurain and Gurpreet in goal, have been solid, giving Raikhan some sense of comfort.

‘All about patience and time’

In the pre-match chat, Raikhan said, “We are preparing well to face the defending champions [on Saturday]. After playing three matches, we have gained confidence because till now, we have faced tough teams such as Mohun Bagan, Shillong and Neroca. We will try not to repeat mistakes and steal three points from them. Our spectators need to trust us. Football is all about patience and time. We hope to have a good match [on Saturday].”

Minerva has endured a difficult campaign despite possessing good players in William Opoku, who scored five times for the club last year in its winning campaign, experienced striker Sabeeth, young Akash Sangwan, Dilliram Sanyasi and Nongdamba Naoremin.

The club’s Technical Director Paul Munster said, “We came a few days before to acclimatise. It's good to be here early. We have come here for three points. The team knows they need to score (sic). We haven't scored in the first two matches. It's the team’s responsibility, not any one individual’s.”

The contest begins at 2 pm.

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