I-League: Bottom-placed Lajong faces Minerva in return-leg

With the AFC Champions League looming, Minerva Punjab will look to win against bottom-placed Shillong Lajong on Friday.

Shillong Lajong has lost 11 of its 13 matches this season.   -  AIFF Media

Its hopes of defending the title now quashed, Minerva Punjab FC resume its I-League campaign with a 14th round clash against bottom-placed Shillong Lajong here Friday.

The first-leg at the JLN stadium in Shillong ended in a 2-2 stalemate.

Minerva has not won in over a month and a half and the last points Shillong picked up was against its Friday hosts in the first leg over two months back.

Minerva managed a last-gasp equaliser in the previous game at the same venue against Gokulam Kerala and its search for goals continues this season.

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Three of the mere seven goals that Minerva have scored in the 13 games played so far, have come from defenders, including last week’s lone goal against Gokulam. Irish coach Paul Munster will be a worried man with the AFC Champions League games getting closer by the day.

Minerva Punjab secured a late draw against Gokulam Kerala.   -  Special Arrangement

 

He seemed to be acknowledging the problem in the pre-game presser, when he said, “We have used seven strikers and it wasn’t good enough. We lacked in concentration and also made a few mistakes which the boys are working on.

“We have a new dimension on the attacking line now. We just want to keep up the hard work.”

Shillong, despite having lost 11 of its 13 games, has scored seven more goals than Minerva and with nothing to lose, will fight for pride and its free-flowing relentless attacking game might just be a threat for an under-pressure Minerva team.

It remains to be seen how Shillong coach Alison Kharsyntiew encourages his young boys to fight, with relegation staring them in the face.

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“We have scored and conceded goals. Our last match against Kashmir was good. We are looking at scoring more goals. We have played good matches with enriching experiences. They will help us in playing this season and for the next season.”

Phrangki Buam is one Shillong player who has had a good campaign, scoring four times to be the second-best Indian goal scorer of the league after Jobby Justin of East Bengal.

So did Philip Njoku and William Opoku Asiedu for Minerva, two players who have scored more than once this season for the holder and will look forward to getting more goals.