Defending champions Minerva Punjab had a stuttering start to their league campaign as they held to a goalless draw by Churchill Brothers at the Tau Devi Lal stadium in Panchkula on Sunday.
Chances were scanty for both sides as the two teams kept things tight at the back. The match came to life only during the dying embers but a fantastic save from Minerva goalkeeper Bhaskar Roy kept the score unchanged.
Minerva head coach Sachin Badhade fielded his side in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Akashdeep Singh, Arashpreet Singh, Lancine Toure and Souvik Das comprised the four-man backline with Philip Njoku and Amandeep Singh as the two holding midfielders. Nongdamba Naorem and Akash Sangwan started on the left and right flanks respectively with Opoku slotting in as the attacking midfielder. Former Mohun Bagan striker Manandeep Singh had the responsibility of scoring goals.
On the other hand, Petre Gigiu chose to stick to James Kithan under the sticks. Wayne Vaz, Hussein Eldor, Nenad Novakovic and Nallappan Mohanraj formed the back four.Fredsan Marshall and Lamgoulen Hangshing manned the wings whereas Dawda Ceesay was given the license to roam about freely in the attacking third. Willis Plaza was the solitary target man for Chuchill.
It was a cagey opening 45 minutes with both teams locked in an intense midfield battle. Churchill looked the more dominant side in the initial 15 minutes as Ceesay was dictating terms in attack.
But Minerva grew slowly and steadily into the game. They mostly relied on long balls targeting Manandeep upfront but Eldor and Novakovic had the aerial superiority over the Indian striker. Naorem was a livewire for Minerva on the wings as he showed excellent technique and control to squeeze past defenders.
The only significant chance fell for Plaza in the 21st minute but a timely finger-tip intervention from Roy averted the danger on that occassion.
More to follow…