I-League: Minerva Punjab held to a goalless draw by Neroca

Neroca FC's Chidi missed a penalty kick in the 77th minute as the host settled for a 0-0 draw against I-League champion Minerva Punjab.

Despite dominating possession and shots on the goal, Neroca was unable to get past Minerva's defence.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Champion Minerva Punjab FC and Manipur’s Neroca FC played out an exciting draw at Imphal’s Khuman Lampak stadium, which had little impact on their league standings. Neroca dominated both possession and creating chance, but could not get past a solid Minerva defence.

The result meant that Neroca stayed at fourth place in the I-League standings with 15 points from nine games while Minerva moved up by one to be sixth on 13 points.

The game maintained a high tempo throughout with both teams displaying urgency to score, but the deadlock remained intact. Neroca, however, outscored the visitor 64-36 in possession, 12-5 in shots taken, 11-2 in corners and 4-2 in the shots on target count.

Neroca’s Spanish coach Manuel Fraile fielded an unchanged eleven, while his counterpart Paul Munster went for as many as seven changes, the crux of them being fielding nine Indian players and just two foreigners in William Opoku and Lancine Toure.

Katsumi Yusa (centre) looked like scoring on multiple occasions, but was denied by timely interceptions.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

Neroca made its intentions clear from the get go when in the 7th minute a Subhash Singh’s cross from the left, fell to Katsumi Yusa inside the box and his effort went straight to keeper. Ghanaian William Opoku then broke away for Minerva in the 16th minute, only to be denied by Eduardo’s timely challenge.

Minerva got the first golden opportunity after the break when a poor clearance by Ashok Singh in the Neroca defence, fell invitingly for Prateek Joshi in front of goal. Neroca’s custodian Lalit Thapa came up with a vital clearance to keep the scoreline 0-0.

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The host began to take control again soon and forayed regularly into the box with Australian midfielder Aryn Williams pulling the strings. Sustained pressure resulted in Manandeep Singh being called out for a handball inside the box and Chidi blew the resultant spot kick over the bar in the 77th minute of the game.

The combination of Subhash Singh and Yusa created one last chance in injury time but the Japanese forward’s shot from just outside the box went straight to Minerva keeper Bhaskar Roy.