AIZAWL, February 27, 2018: Minerva Punjab renewed their title chase with a convincing 2-0 defeat of reigning champions Aizawl FC, the result breaking a run of successive home reverses and helping them regain pole position in the I-League, here.
Akash Sangwan broke the deadlock in the 50th minute while Ivory Coast import Bazie Armand, who replaced Bhutanese Chencho Gyeltshen moments before the final whistle, added another in the injury time (90+5).
Minerva Punjab, who finished second last the previous season, led the standings with 32 points from 16 matches, leapfrogging Neroca FC and East Bengal with two more games to play.
Minerva Punjab completed the game with a strike late into the second half injury time when Opoku’s header off a Kamalpreet Singh free-kick landed on Armand s path.
For the first goal, Kamalpreet, an U-22 player who plays at the back, started the move; midfield marshal William Opoku laid it for Chencho on the right before Sangwan s left-footed attempt was thwarted by Avilash Paul. But Sangwan found the back of the next off the resultant rebound.
While Minerva Punjab were the dominant of the two teams, defending champions Aizawl FC too had their share of chances, and the midfield duo of Andrei Ionescu and Lalthathanga Khawlhring did keep the home defence busy.
After losing the last two matches, there was a change in tactics from Minerva as they resorted to playing short passes in this game, though the second half saw them playing long balls on occasions.
Minerva head coach Khogen Singh made just one change to the XI he started with against Gokulam FC, with Amandeep Singh coming in for Randeep Singh in midfield.
Gagandeep Bali started as the lone striker, supported by Chencho, Opoku and Akashdeep Singh.
Aizawl coach Santosh Kashyap made no changes to the team that started in the win against Indian Arrows. Aizawl FC remained in sixth place with 21 points.
Featured image(courtesy): I-League