Minerva Punjab FC are scheduled to play their first home game in the AFC Cup Group stage at Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar, Odisha. They will be facing one of the most successful teams in Nepal, the eight-time Nepalese champions, Manang Marshyangdi Club.
Like most of the teams in Group E, Manang are also taking part in this competition for the very first time. They have qualified as champions of Nepal, in a season which they won by winning 12 out of 13 games in the league. After the league, they took part in the Sikkim Gold cup in India and emerged as champions as well.
Manang, who sit at the bottom of the table with two losses in two games, will certainly feel that luck has not been on their side in this tournament. Both of their games have been very close. They lost to Abahani by just 1 goal inspite of dominating most of the game in possession and chances as well. Against Chennaiyin too, they played very well throughout the game but lost concentration momentarily and conceded two goals in 3 minutes to let the game slip away from them.
Their coach, Chirring Gurung, conceded at the pre match conference that this is a must win game for Manang. When asked about his thoughts on the match, the coach said: “It is very important match for us as well as Minerva Punjab FC and we want to take all three points.”
Minerva Punjab FC, on the other hand, have two points from two games with draws in both away games so far. They will be delighted to finally play at home and will certainly look to gain the advantage to move up in the table.
Minerva Punjab have impressed with their performance in the first two games. They have had quite a few chances to score and close the games but have not been able to pounce on them. Coming back to India, playing at their home, will certainly give them a boost.
Minerva’s coach, Sachin Badadhe, expressed confidence in his team and said away games are always difficult but his team always plays for 3 points. In the pre match conference, he said: “We played 2 away games and winning away games is not easy but after the performance in the last game, we are confident we will win.”
Harminder Singh, who was also present in the press conference expressed confidence in his team and said players like Kareem have improved the team’s defence and help the team to play better.
Meanwhile, in the other tie of Group E, Chennaiyin FC host Anahani Dhaka at Transtadia, Ahmedabad on 30th April 2019. The match is scheduled for a 1930 hrs kickoff and could be important in deciding the fate of both the teams in the group.
(Minerva Punjab FC)