Minerva Punjab FC clinches I-League title

William Opoku Asiedu's goal in the 16th minute sealed Minerva Punjab's FC's I-league title triumph.

Minerva Punjab players celebrate after their title triumph on Thursday.   -  AIFF Media

Minerva Punjab FC created history by becoming the first team from North India in the history of the I-League to win the crown jewel of Indian football. William Opoku Asiedu's goal was enough to seal the title for Minerva Punjab as it beat Churchill Brothers by a solitary goal to win the league.

This is a landmark moment in Indian football where two relegation threatened teams have won back to back I-League titles. Last year it was Aizawl, this year it is Minerva Punjab from Chandigarh. Churchill Brothers on the other hand got relegated after this defeat demotes them to 2 division.

Minerva started the first half well and the attacking trio of Chencho, William and Girik combined really well to put Churchill’s defence in jeopardy. Chencho almost scored the match’s opener in the eighth minute when a low Girik Khosla cross wasn’t dealt with properly by Monday and gave Chencho a chance but he couldn’t make full use of it.

Minutes later Akash Sangwan had an opportunity to score from left but his shot went straight to the keeper. The game-changing moment finally came in the 16th minute when William converted from point blank range after a rebound from Girik’s shot.

William had another exceptional chance in the injury time of the first half but he couldn’t control his effort and lost possession. The first half ended with the home side leading 1-0.

The second half started with a flurry of attacks from Churchill, which tried its best to stage a comeback but got unlucky on many occasions. In the 49th minute, Sangwan’s corner kick found Chencho, but the latter's header went just wide of target.

Churchill almost scored in the 51st minute when Britto got a chance from just six yards out but his weak effort was saved. Ceesay took a long shot in 54th minute but Kiran was there to save comfortably. The big chance for Churchill came in 61st minute when Ceesay created space inside box to set himself for a shot but ball just went over the crossbar.

Minerva should have doubled its lead in 64th minute when Kassim played one two with Chencho but Chencho’s following cross towards Sangwan, who was unmarked, went out for a goal kick.

In 65th minute, Britto missed the opportunity of the match so far when he went one on one with the keeper Kiran but Minerva shot stopper came out quickly to save his side.

Minerva centre back Eric Dano got a chance in 80th minute when he took a shot after a deflected corner kick but his shot was nowhere near target.

Minerva, cheered on by its local fans, defended bravely to hold on and win its first I-League trophy.

 

All India Football Federation President Praful Patel congratulated Minerva Punjab Football Club after the Chandigarh based Club was crowned the champion of the I-League.

In his message Patel said, "Congratulations Minerva Punjab Football Club on winning the Hero I-League 2017-18 and gaining a spot in the ACL Qualifiers for the next season. The League has been a very competitive and exciting one and it was nice to see four teams having a chance to win it on the final day."

AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das also congratulated MPFC on its achievement. "Well played Minerva Punjab Football Club, the deserving champions of the Hero I-League. The manner in which you sealed it is in itself a story. I trust the victory will encourage kids to follow and play the sport more," he said.

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