Minerva Punjab Edge Churchill Brothers to Clinch I-League Title in Thriller
Minerva Punjab got the three points when it mattered the most as they beat Churchill Brothers 1-0 to lift the I-League title in stunning style at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula on Thursday.
New Delhi: Minerva Punjab got the three points when it mattered the most as they beat Churchill Brothers 1-0 to lift the I-League title in stunning style at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula on Thursday.
Minerva needed a win to guarantee a top-place finish in the league and William's first half-strike was enough for the Punjab base team to finish as I-League champions in only their second outing in the top division.
Before the last match-day of the season, mathematically, four teams were in contention for lifting the title but it was Minerva who came on top of others as they became the first team from the Northern part of the country to lift the title in more than two decades (JCT won the inaugural National Football League in 1996-17).
Minerva entered the final day's game with 32 points from 17 matches, and they were closely followed by Neroca FC, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal but the three teams fell short by some distance. The loss also ensured Churchill Brothers' relegation to the second division.
All India Football Federation President Mr. Praful Patel congratulated Minerva Punjab Football Club and said: Congratulations Minerva Punjab Football Club on winning the I-League 2017-18 and gaining a spot in the ACL Qualifiers for the next season. The League has been a very competitive and exciting one and it was nice to see four teams having a chance to win it on the final day."
Minerva Punjab started the first half on a positive note with the attacking trio of Chencho, William and Girik combining really well to put Churchill’s defence in jeopardy. Chencho almost scored the match’s opener in 8th minute when a low Girik Khosla cross wasn’t dealt with properly by Monday which gave Chencho 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 into the Keeper who blocked well. The moment finally came in 16th minute when William converted from point blank range after a rebound from Girik’s shot which fell right into his feet. William had another exceptional chance in the injury time of 1st half but he couldn’t control his effort and 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 in 2nd half but got unlucky on many occasions. In the 49th minute Akash 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 6 yards out but his weak effort came hit the keeper. Ceesay took a long shot in 54th minute but Kiran was there to save comfortably.
Monday tried his luck in 59th minute but his wayward short was nowhere near the target. The big chance for Churchill came in 61st minute when Ceesay created space inside box to set himself for a shot but ball just went over the crossbar.
Minerva should have doubled their lead in 64th minute when Kassim played one two with Chencho but Chencho’s following cross towards Sangwan, who was unmarked, went out for a goal kick.
In 65th minute Britto missed the opportunity of the match so far when he went one on one with the keeper Kiran but Minerva shot stopper came out quickly to save his side.
In another show of combination play Chencho was brilliantly setup by William in 73rd minute in the box but he decided to cut inside and in doing so lost the ball possession.
Minerva centre back Eric Dano got a chance in 80th minute when he took a shot after a deflected corner kick but his shot was nowhere near target.
Bali Gagandeep got a chance to get his name on scoresheet but his weak effort didn’t trouble the keeper. As the Full-time whistle was blown it was it for the day. All Over. Minerva Punjab FC were crowned Champions of India in a historic moment for Indian Football.
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