A solitary goal gave the northern side all the points in the hills.
It was an intense Hero I-League match that took place between Shillong Lajong FC and Minerva Punjab FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong on Sunday (January 14, 2018).
Minerva managed to beat the host team 1-0 in a fast-paced game which managed to keep the 5800 people in attendance on the edge of their seats. William scored the only goal of the match to continue Minerva Punjab FC’s fairytale run in the ongoing league.
Although both teams started off on the offensive note, it was Minerva who emerged as the better team as they managed to snatch a hard-earned victory against the Shillong based team.
While managing to hold their ground against Minerva, Lajong’s chances of winning were denied by the Minerva defence and the in-form Rakshit Dagar who was awarded Hero of the match.
Both teams started off on an offensive note right from the start of the game with Minerva Punjab taking a more aggressive approach. Lajong however, were holding their own against their opponents resulting in an equally levelled game.
Minerva’s first goal attempt came in the 5th minute with Opoku getting past Lajong’s defence; however, his shot was wide and missed the goal.
Lajong had a good chance to score in the 21st minute, however, Deory’s deflected shot was saved by Minerva goalkeeper RakshitDagar as a result of Al-Hagri failing to send the ball into the net.
Lajong midfielder Redeem Tlang went on to replace Al-Hagri in the 28th minute which marked Lajong’s first substitution.
The game was turning into a fast-paced match with each team desperately fighting for an advantage.
The first blow to Lajong came in the 32nd minute when midfielder Daniel Odafin was given a yellow card.
Minerva created another chance to score in the 40th minute but Opoku’s shot was wide. Lajong replied with an attempt at the Minerva goal which was saved by Dagar in the 43rd minute.
By the end of the first half, both teams had failed to create an advantage in a game that was evenly matched.
The start of the second half had Minerva applying the pressure on the home side. The Punjab based team’s offence was up by a notch as they had Lajong on the defensive.
Minerva replaced forward Lago Dogbobei with Girik Mahesh Khosla in the 57th minute.
The game changer came in the 57th minute as Minerva took the lead from Opoku’s strike.
Chencho ran down the left flank beating NovinGurung by sheer pace and fed Opoku with an assist who in turn sent a magnificent shot into the back of the net.
Leading the game by 1-0, it could be seen that the confidence of the Minerva team was at an all-time high as they momentarily silenced the otherwise strong home crowd.
Lajong’s chance to score an equaliser came in the 62nd minute but Dagar managed to save Koffi’s shot. Minerva replied in the 66th minute with another goal attempt by Girik.
The home side wasted another chance to equalise in the 80th minute as Lalmuanpuia sent the ball straight into the arms of Dagar.
Lajong made two substitutions in the 69th and 80th minute as Sheen Stevenson Sohktung replaced midfielder Hardy Cliff Nongbria and F. Lalrohlua replaced forward Alen Deory.
Lajong tried to get back into the game but could not get past Minerva’s strong defence.
Yet another opportunity to score was denied to Lajong as Dagar foiled Koffi’s attempt in the 87th minute resulting in a yellow card for Dagar.
With 6 minutes added as stoppage time, Lajong’s last attempt came was a fruitless one as Minerva Punjab FC garnered another important three points on their trip to the Northeastern part of India.
Minerva Punjab FC have now amassed 22 points from 9 matches whereas Lajong remain in the fourth spot with 14 points having played one match more.