Minerva win match, bag maiden title

HAPPY BUNCH: Jubilant Minerva Punjab players and support staff after winning the I-League on Thursday. Picture courtsey AIFF

Calcutta/Panchukula: Minerva Punjab FC triumphed against all odds on Thursday, less than a year after a miracle by another underdog team Aizawl FC, concluding an I-League season peppered with unprecedented twists and turns.

William Asiedu Opoku's goal was enough to seal the title for Minerva, who defeated Churchill Brothers in Panchkula.

The 2017-18 league was down to the most dramatic final day in the competition's history with as many as four teams, including old guards Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, gunning for the title. Debutants Neroca FC, surprisingly, were the other contenders.

For a club that is only in their second season in top-flight, the achievement is huge.

Minerva also became the first team from north India to win the Hero I-League.

This is a landmark moment in Indian football where two relegation-threatened teams had gone on to win the I-League in successive years. Last year it was Aizawl, this year it is Minerva Punjab from Chandigarh.

Churchill Brothers, on the other hand, got relegated to the second division.

Minerva's attacking trio of Chencho Gyeltshen, William and Girik Khosla combined well to put Churchill's defence in jeopardy.

Chencho almost scored the opener in the eighth minute when a low Khosla cross wasn't dealt with properly by Osagie Monday, giving the Bhutanese ace a chance. But he couldn't make full use of it.

Minutes later Akash Sangwan had an opportunity to score from left but his shot went straight to the keeper.

The goal came in the 16th minute when William converted from point blank range after a rebound of Khosla's shot, which fell right at his feet.

William had another great chance in the injury time of first half but he lost possession.

The first half ended with the home side leading 1-0.

The second half started with a flurry of attacks from Churchill Brothers who tried their best to come back, but were unlucky on many occasions.

In the 49th minute, Sangwan's pin-point corner kick met Chencho header but his effort went just wide of target.

Churchill Brothers almost scored in the 51st minute when Britto got a chance from just six yards out but his weak effort hit the keeper.

Ceesay took a long shot in the 54th minute but Kiran was there to save comfortably.

Monday tried his luck in the 59th minute, but his wayward shot was nowhere near the target.

Minerva should have doubled their lead in the 64th minute when Kassim Aidara played an one-two with Chencho but Chencho's cross towards Sangwan, who was unmarked, went out.

In the 65th minute, Britto missed the opportunity of the match so far when he had only the goalkeeper to beat, but Minerva's defence was quick to react.



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