In what was a crackling match in Imphal today, Minerva Academy FC held the home side NEROCA FC to a goalless draw at the Khuman Lampak Stadium.
With both the teams desperate for 3 points, they fielded a strong Starting XI. NEROCA FC had in their start list as many as five players who have played in the ISL 2014 and 15. Minerva FC on the other hand had just two players – Sukhwinder and Munmun – who were part of the ISL/I-League ta some point in the career.
With close to 15,000 crowds cheering, the match started on a high tempo as both the team looked to take the lead. NEROCA FC were the first to have a sniff at the goal when a David Ngaihte cross was pumped pass the far post by Emmanuel.
But Minerva responded immediately with Munmun doing the hard work on the flank. His through ball for Sukhwinder was well controlled but the shot was not enough to trouble the ISL experience goalkeeper Lalit Thapa.
Both the teams have direct approach to the game and constantly exchange attacks in their quest to take the lead. Wingers from the side displayed their speed and created lots of chances but the forwards failed to capitalise on those as the match went into the break with the deadlock intact.
The 2nd half also started on the same way and NEROCA unleashed flurry of attacks as they were under more pressure to win at home. Seikhohao Tuboi was introduced to add more fluidity in the attacking third. Tuboi and David combined well and troubled the Minerva’s defence to an extent but they couldn’t beat the young Arshdeep Singh at the goal. Arshdeep made some fantastic saves to keep Minerva on the hunt.
Towards the fag end, Minerva went all out on the attack. On one occasion, Sajandeep and Bala played some fine one touch game and beautifully set up the on-rushing Manvir Singh. But the youngster failed to hit the target.
At the end of the regulation time, both the potential champions of the 2nd Division failed to score and were forced to split points.
“We came for 3 points but unfortunately, we have to return with just one,” said coach Surinder Singh after the match.
“We played very well and I am happy with the performance of my team. We fought hard and never allowed NEROCA to dominate us. in fact there were instances where we had the upper hand,” coach Surinder added.
“Though we are going back with just one point, there are lots of positives we carry back from this match, which will be useful for us in our upcoming match,” he concluded.
Minerva Academy FC next play Mohammedan Sporting Club in Kolkata on April 3, 2016.