Match Report: Aizawl FC 1-0 Minerva Punjab FC
Backed by capacity crowd, Aizawl FC were desperate for the 3 points and started with a bang, attacking right from the first whistle when Steven Bayi’s shot was blocked by the Minerva defence.
The Mizo-outfit then gained control of the midfield and stretched the Minerva defence though they failed to create any opening. The first chance came when Alfred Jayran was fouled outside the box and Jayesh Rane squandered the ensuing free-kick.
Then Right back Lalrinzuala Khiangte got into action as he ran down the flank and put across the ball for Kamo, who was a second slower. The half chances kept coming for the home side but they couldn’t capitalised on those to make a breakthrough.
Few minutes later, the Minerva goalkeeper Ravi Kumar was called into action. He made back to back saves when he had to rush out off his line to clear a through pass.
However, towards the end of the first half and against the run of play, the Punjab side
had their first chance when Manandeep Singh was fouled just outside the box. Former Aizawl FC striker Joel Sunday stepped up to have a sniff at the goal but the shot hit the wall before Loveday pounced on it to shot it for a corner.
Moments later, Jayesh Rane had the best chance of the half after Loveday misread an advancing long ball and the former Mumbai FC man tried to chip Ravi Kumar first time, but ended up hitting the crossbar.
The teams went into the lemon break with the deadlock intact.
Right after resumption, Lalrinzuala and Kamo combined and tested the Minerva defence leaving right back Kamalpreet Singh on the floor but the tap-in by the Ivory Coast man just brushed into the side netting. Minerva were showing their lack of experience again and again as they pushed the ball out of play while trying to play on the flanks.
The first substitution was used in the 52nd minute by Surinder Singh, the coach of Minnerva Punjab FC when he brought on Indian International, Gurjinder Kumar to replace Palsang Lama, in a move to introduce experience in the midfield.
A chance again fell for Aizawl FC but Albert Zohmingmawia failed to find the back of the net as his shot was deprived of any power and went inches wide.
Aizawl created yet another chance at the hour mark when Lalmuankima's volley from outside the box failed to find the target. Minerva brought on their second change as Uttam Rai replaced the experienced Manandeep Singh in the attacking third. Aizawl FC coach, Khalid Jamil decided to give chance to R. Laldanmawia in place of Albert Zohmingmawia.
Then former Mohun Bagan player Simranjeet Singh came into action, beating Lalrinzuala on the right to sent in a beautiful cross but Aizawl FC defender had the height advantage over Uttam Rai and cleared it away. Simranjeet got hold of the second ball and crossed again but Joel Sunday failed to make any decisive contact to leave Albino Gomes untroubled.
The 67th minute saw Minerva attacking but Joel Sunday was unable to convert Victor's cross from the right. Chances started coming thick and fast in the last quarter for both the teams as the introduction of Uttam Rai brought in the much needed impetus to the Minerva attackers.
With 10 minutes remaining, Minerva made their final change as custodian, Ravi Kumar had to be replaced by Kamaljit Singh due to serious injury. Khalid Jamil also brought in his trusted aid Ashutosh Mehta to help in the attack. With the players getting tired, neither team showed any intent of scoring any breakthrough goal as the substitutes of both teams kept on wasting balls and giving away possession in the midfield. Aizawl FC made their last substitution with a minute to go as Jayesh Rane made way for former Rangdajied forward Lalnunpuia.
The only crucial save made by Aizawl custodian, Albino Gomes came in the 2nd minute of injury time when he had to come off his line to clear the ball from a brilliant cross by Joel Sunday.
Aizawl FC however had the last laugh when a Mahmoud Al Amna’s inch perfect corner was headed by Ashutosh Mehta to be deflected into the net by an Aizawl FC player, resulting in the goal that the home side were seeking since the first whistle. The goal sent the capacity crowd into rupture and in no time, the referee blew the final whistle.
The win took Aizawl FC to the top of the table, thought it might just be for few hours or a day. They will next host fellow Northeastern side Shillong Lajong on Tuesday.
HERO OF THE MATCH:
FEVERPITCH.IN'S MAN OF THE MATCH: Mahmoud Al Amenah (Aizawl FC)
Photo Credit : InKhel