Minerva Punjab FC very unlucky to not win the 3 points at their first AFC Cup home game at Kalinga Stadium, Bhubaneswar.
Right from the kick off, with the kind of the start Minerva Punjab had, it was clear they wanted nothing but 3 points. They were strong and aggressive from the first minuted and made their intent clear in the 9th Minute when Sreyas Gopalan scored from a rebound off the Manang’s defender. Minerva continued to attack and making inroads but few good saves from the opposition goalkeeper didn’t let Minerva to increase the lead further.
It was nothing but pure bad luck when Robert Primus, Minerva’s centre back, was taken off due to an injury. Immediately after the substitution, Manang were awarded a penalty against the run of the play in the 33rd minute. Everyone expected an equaliser but Minerva’s goalkeeper Arshdeep made a brilliant save to deny the Manang striker from converting in the 36th minute. The first half didn’t see any more goal and the score stood at 1-0 at the half time whistle.
Minerva Punjab started the 2nd half with a clear intent of increasing their lead and closing the game. They got few good chances but failed to convert. Al Amna’s shot was blocked and Sreyas followed up with another shot which was just wide of the post in the 55th minute. Kalif Alhassan went very close with a curled shot at the outer post. Minerva were so close to scoring when they Manang scored off a low cross in the 69th minute to take the score level at 1-1.
Minerva Punjab were taken by surprise but recovered well and started pushing their opponents in their half. The constant pressure on the Manang defence led to a clear foul on Moinuddin in the 67th minute and Minerva were awarded a penalty. Kareem Omolaja stepped up and converted the spot kick to take Minerva one up with a score of 2-1 in the 86th minute.
Minerva looked certain to take home 3 points when a cross when Manang’s winger was met with a header that led to Manang’s equaliser in the 89th minute. Minerva tried everything in the last few minutes but the time was too short for them to be able to take back the lead.
With this draw, Minerva Punjab now have 3 points from three games and are places thired in the Group e. With two of the upcoming three games being at home, this could change fast for Minerva Punjab.
Next up in AFC, Minerva Punjab travel to Nepal to play Manang in the reverse fixture on 15thMay 2019.
(Minerva Punjab FC)