I-League: Beleaguered Minerva Punjab goes down to Aizawl FC

Minerva Punjab stumbles to a 1-0 loss at home, its seventh in 15 matches.

On the attack: Aizawl FC had the better of what was for the most part a scrappy affair. Photo: AIFF Media

Aizawl FC, the 2016-17 champion, beat Minerva Punjab FC, the defending champion, 1-0 in an I-League contest here on Friday.

The all-important goal was scored by Lalrinchhana in the 69th minute.

With this win, Aizawl moved to the seventh spot on the points table, with 14 points from 15 games. It held the 10th spot before this game, deep into the relegation zone, but this result takes it out of it for now. It has picked up five points since its new coach, Rosario, took over.

Scrappy affair

For Minerva, the defeat was its seventh in 15 matches. Its goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh, however, put up a heroic display. It was a scrappy affair for most part, except for a period in the second half when Aizawl looked enterprising.

Hoping to end his team’s win drought, Minerva coach Paul Munster even played new recruits Juan Quero of Spain and Mahmoud Al Amna of Syria.

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The first chance of the game came Minerva’s way. Dilliram Sanyasi got under a volley off a cross from Juan Quero from the left flank, but the effort lacked power and direction. Then, Kussaga took a shot in the 19th minute for Aizawl from a distance, but Arshdeep, in the Minerva goal, was equal to it.

Albert, then, made a purposeful foray for Aizawl to deliver a delicious cross, but Arshdeep again made a timely intervention to thwart the danger.

Breaking the deadlock

The second half saw Aizawl pressing hard, particularly through Isak, whose runs from the right troubled the Minerva defence. The defence did not feature the solid Lancine Toure.

After a few scoring chances were missed by the likes of Kussaga and Kareem Nurain, thanks mainly to Arshdeep’s efforts, Isak’s first purposeful run brought Aizawl a much-deserved lead. He found the shortest player on the field, and Lalrinchhana pulled off a delectable header across the face of goal to beat Arshdeep.

Akash Sangwan missed a golden opportunity to equalise a couple of minutes later, finding himself in the clear inside the Aizawl box, but with only the goalkeeper to beat, his shot was wide off the target. Munster brought on Mahmoud Al Amna late in the game in a desperate attempt, but Aizawl held on for a win.

Result: Minerva Punjab 0-1 Aizawl FC (Lalrinchhana 69')