Minerva Academy FC won a thrilling final to become the Nike Premier Cup 2016 winners after overcoming Royal Wahingdoh FC 4-3 on penalties at the Duler Stadium, Goa on Friday.
The match ended 1-1 in regulation time after Phrangki Buam’s (77) goal was cancelled out by Givson Singh (79).
Phrangki however missed the first spot-kick of the shoot-out while Hmingsang Zuala hit the crossbar when the score was tied at 3-3.
Substitute Prasan Chhetri stepped up and struck the winning penalty as Minerva Academy became the champions after winning 4-3.
The match was played under the watchful eyes of India U-17 coach Nicolai Adam while Kushal Das, General Secretary of All India Football Federation and Sunando Dhar, CEO of I-League were also present for the final.
The match started at a frantic pace with end-to-end football at the display and the first real chance of the match fell to Royal Wahingdoh in the 13th minute.
Phrangki swung a free-kick which kept low and was met by Thongram Singh with a diving header only to miss the target by inches.
Wahingdoh kept probing and were denied a goal only by Minerva goalkeeper Jaskarenvir Singh in the 26th minute.
A swift counter-attack saw Freestar Kharbangar feed skipper Rheadolf Nelson Daloi with a defence splitting pass. Rheadolf’s first touch was heavy but managed to get his shot away only for the goalkeeper to prevent a goal with an outstretched leg.
As the half was drawing to a close, Minerva forward Shubham produced a moment of class in the 40th minute.
The forward wrong-footed defender Rakesh Singh with an exquisite nutmeg before dinking the ball towards goal from outside the box only to see it hit the crossbar and go out.
There were no goals to show in a lively first half as the referee blew the whistle for half-time.
Minerva were beginning to stretch Wahingdoh as they looked dominant after the change-over. Minerva attacker Givson Singh who had opened the scoring in the semi-final with a long ranger almost scored in similar fashion. However, his shot from distance thundered the crossbar before being cleared away by the Wahingdoh defence.
After 77 minutes of play, Wahingdoh broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion. Midfielder Rickyson Makdoh won a duel with Luntinmang Haokip in midfield before feeding Phrangki. The attacker controlled the ball before smashing the ball into the net from 35 yards out.
If the opening goal was spectacular, the equalizer was equally spectacular.
Just two minutes after Phrangki’s goal when Wahingdoh were settling into their formations, Minerva man Givson tried his luck from the right flank with an audacious curling shot that beat Wahingdoh keeper Kevinson all ends up to restore parity.
After 90 minutes of play, there was no clear winner as Phrangki’s opener was cancelled out by Givson to force extra-time.
There was the only notable opportunity in extra-time as the match went into the shoot-out and Minerva held their nerve to win the title.
(Report & Photo courtesy I-League Media)