The much-anticipated I-League match between Aizawl FC and Minerva Punjab FC ended with a own goal by Loveday Okechukwu towards the end of the second half. The match remained goalless until 94th minute when Loveday miscued his header to score an own-goal from a scathing long-corner taken by Mahmoud Al-Amna who was eventually bestowed with the Hero of the Match award.
Having earned themselves 1 point each from their previous matches against Kingfisher East Bengal and Chennai City FC, both Aizawl FC and Minerva Punjab FC approached the pitch with cherished desires to walk away with all three points. Nigerian forward Victor Amobi proved his skills once again playing a spectacular game for his side. Aizawl FC defender Lalruatthara also showed his worth making his presence felt and posing to be a threat even in the attacking third.
Aizawl FC looked to be the superior side in the first half but failed to penetrate the Minerva Punjab defence line in spite of a few attacking moves perpetuated by them at the goal mouth. Less than 10 minutes passed after the kickoff, Alfred Jaryan’s shot was saved by away keeper Ravi Kumar. Syrian international Mahmoud Al-Amna challenged the away keeper a few minutes later with a shot close range shot which was blocked by the keeper. Neither side displayed a very invigorating game, nor did both ends see nail-biting goal mouth actions.
Towards the end of the first half, Minerva were awarded a free kick from about 24 yards. Joel Sunday took the free kick which Loveday attempted to convert, but the ball was intercepted by Zohmingliana Ralte. Jayesh Rane’s shot for his new side Aizawl FC hit the goal bar minutes before the first half ended, failing to give the home team a much-desired lead.
The second half began with Aizawl FC pursuing a goal, Nigerian forward Bayi Kamo missed a good chance to give his team a lead when he failed to convert a cross by Lalruatthara just three minutes into the second half. Albert Zohmingmawia, Aizawl FC midfielder missed another clear chance with his shot going wide halfway into the match.
Away keeper Ravi Kumar made a splendid save for his team in the 70th minute when he stopped a shot by Lalruatthara who had received Laldanmawia’s cross from the right flank. Kumar, however, had to be taken out and replaced by Kamaljit Singh with an injury sustained after a collision with Bayi Kamo.
The decisive moment came in the added time when Mahmoud Al-Amna took a corner kick which was headed into their own goal by the lanky Minerva Punjab FC defender Loveday Okechukwu only to have tried to clear it from the onrushing Aizawl FC attackers.
After the match, Aizawl FC coach Khalid Jamil expressed his exuberance at their victory, “We controlled the match right from the beginning, and deserve the three points.”
Minerva Punjab FC Surinder Singh accepted their defeat, “Both victories and defeats are a part of football. My boys worked really hard, and I am proud of their performance.”
(Report & Photo courtesy: I-League Media)