Mohali-based Minerva Punjab FC travelled eastwards to take on Rail Coach Factory at the RCF Stadium in Kapurthala in the third encounter of the 32nd Punjab State Super Football League.
The Warriors of Punjab who bagged the I-League title last season fielded a completely revamped squad for the State’s local league clearly giving a chance to their Academy Graduates and Reserves to prove themselves as gaffer Sachin Badhade and Technical Director Paul Munster (Northern Ireland) look to re-build a competative Team for the upcoming I-League season and defend the title.
The line up saw Vignesh making his way under the woodwork as Harpreet Bedi, Deepak Devrani, Arshpreet Singh and Nikhil formed the backline. Japanese import Yu Kuboki led from the centre along with Souvik Das as Akashdeep and Mohammed Sahajahan were deployed on the wings. Dilliram and Robert led the attack upfront.
The Warriors kicked off the game with an early chance in the 8th minute that saw Dilliram Sanyasi breezing past a couple of defenders but ending up shooting wide. The next move saw RCF building up a good attack from the centre of the park, but Minerva custodian Vignesh got hold of the ball with quite ease. With a couple of exchanges, Souvik Das finally brought the dugout on their toes as he brilliantly smashed a deflected cross from the right straight into the crossbar, but a RCF defender made a jaw dropping clearence just on the line to keep his team into the game.
It took no time for the Minervans who were all over the hosts creating chances to break the deadlock, but the hosts however managed to keep up the spirit alive. Gaffer Sachin soon brought in Denzil in favour of Nikhil in the 40th minute, but the Minervans however didn’t manage to convert their chances that saw both teams go into the break with the scoreboard remaining unchanged.
The second half didn’t see a plesant start as Minerva’s Deepak Devrani went down with an injury and was sidelined for a few minutes recieving treatment. Akashdeep made a brilliant attempt in the 63rd minute when he fired a powerful shot from the left aiming the near post but his shot was blocked by a great effort from the RCF custodian.
Gaffer Sachin Badhade played the next card with a smart move bringing in C.S. Sabeeth in favour of Harpreet Bedi and Brazilian Robert was replaced by Aimable to generate more attacks upfront, the move did bear fruits but the blues were guilty of missing chances which denied them the lead. Dilliram brought the Warriors close again in the 67th minute as he set up a wonderful move for Denzil whose powerful shot was again denied by the RCF custodian.
RCF were lucky as a clear foul on Yu Kuboki was denied in the 80th minute as the referee pointed for a corner instead of a penalty which again saw Aimable’s header miss by a whisker. The dying moments of the game saw Arshpreet Singh take a long screamer from the top of the box which again missed by inches leaving the Warriors frustrated.
Yu Kuboki finally broke the deadlock in the last minute of the game with a sweet left footed strike that beat the RCF custodian with ease, all credits to Denzil’s run from the Right which was chipped in for Dilliram but the fleet-flooted striker calmly headed off for Yu Kuboki on the run making it 1-0 at the brink of the final whistle.
(Minerva Punjab FC)