INDIA: Buzzing on the back of their 6-0 thrashing of Sher-e-Punjab four days earlier, Minerva Academy Football Club took to the field against International FC for their first game in the Punjab Super League II.
It was a familiar-looking first-team for Minerva Academy, as Surinder Singh – the technical director of coaching at Minerva – replaced Yan Law on the touchline.
The game had a great flow to it in the opening minutes, with both sides having decent spells of possession, but the away team was winning more aerial duels and looked physically more adept.
The first half of the game
It was the characteristic 4-3-3 formation for Minerva Academy. But, the front three of Nikhil Mali, Victor Ekombong, and Radhakanta were unable to an impact. Due to this, the pendulum was slowly swinging in International’s favor, as they piled on the pressure at the other end.
Surinder Singh decided to make an early tactical substitution. Ekomobong’s afternoon didn’t even last thirty minutes. Hence, he was replaced by Mohit Sharma to play through the center, and Minerva Academy instantly looked more coordinated in the attack.
However, they were guilty of giving away cheap possession and making mistakes in dangerous positions in the first half, which finally cost them dearly just before half time, when a shot came in from the right. Suraj Mallick was well-positioned to save it at the near post. However, he spilled it, and it fell kindly to a yellow shirt for an easy tap-in.
International FC went into halftime with a well deserved 1-0 lead.
Minerva fight back to equal the score
It was no surprise that there was a substitution for Minerva Academy before the start of the second half. Subham Chetry, who did not have a very impressive first half from midfield, was replaced by Sreyas G – the tall striker who had two goals to his name back in the 2018/19 AFC Cup for Minerva Academy.
The change meant that Radhakanta moved into midfield and Mohit shifted to the right, and Minerva Academy finally looked their sharpest selves again in the second half – controlling the tempo and keeping possession. The home team kept getting progressively better as the game wore on, and they came very close to equalising when Nikhil Mali’s cross was met by Sreyas, who acrobatically struck the ball and hit the crossbar.
Minerva Academy’s persistence was eventually rewarded, when Lalrinchanna scooped the ball through the centre and Mohit Sharma was in behind the two centre halves. He was through on goal and a tug of his jersey led to the refereee pointing to the spot for a penalty.
Minerva’s Academy’s finest talent, Anwar Ali, stepped up for it, and a few moments later, the goalkeeper was picking the ball out of his net. He had guessed the right way, but Anwar’s penalty was strong and precise to the keeper’s left.
It was 1-1 in the 72nd minute.
Minerva’s fantastic win
More pressure followed from the home team, as their hold on the game strengthened, and it was in the 89th minute that they played the winning move. A low cross from Nikhil Pal was driven into the box and Sreyas was on the end of it to swing it home with his left foot.
It was 2-1 – International looked tired and helpless, and it didn’t take very long for Minerva Academy to pounce and kill the game off. Mohit, very direct and full of running, sent a cross in and Sreyas was there again to tap it in for his second goal and Minerva’s third in injury time.
In a game of two halves, the final score was 3-1 and Minerva Academy registered their first win in the Punjab Second Division. They will now look to build on this, as an 11-day rest period is followed by their next fixture on the 6th of Jan in Amritsar.