The defending champions were reduced to ten men enroute to sharing the spoils with the South Indian side.
Minerva Punjab held Gokulam Kerala to a 1-1 stalemate in a game that saw very little from the two sides in the attacking halves. The draw gives both the sides a crucial point each, helping their bid to enter the top half of the table. While Minerva sit in seventh place, Gokulam lie at a lowly ninth position.
Gift Raikhan, the recently-appointed technical director of Gokulam, saw his side take the lead in the 84th minute through debutant Marcus Joseph. The Malabarians were forced to wait for unusually long for the deadlock-breaker, even after having a man advantage over the home side after the sending off of 22-year-old Ivorian forward Kouame Konan Zacharie.
Minerva Punjab found their equaliser in the dying minutes of the game through a header by defender Jorge Caceido Rodriguez, gifting the home team a much-deserved point from the game. Let’s take a look at the talking points from the game played at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium:
5. Why have Minerva been struggling with their foreigners?
The Chandigarh-based side have been failing to get benefits from their foreigners
Minerva Punjab are the defending champions of the I-League and a lot of the credit for it has to be given to club owner Ranjit Bajaj for scouting the best foreigners. The likes of Chencho Gyeltshen, William Opoku Asiedu, Kassim Aidara and others helped Minerva become the best team in the league last season. But, this campaign, it has all gone horribly wrong for the club from Punjab.
Minerva have been struggling to get the same benefits from theIR foreigners which they got in the previous season. Injuries and players’ poor form have cost the Warriors. If Minerva are to salvage their season, they will need their foreigners to be on top of their game.
4. Did Gokulam Kerala try hard enough?
Of the 90 minutes of the game, Gokulum Kerala had the numerical advantage over the hosts for 70 of them. But, the visitors failed to create any impact often failing to penetrate.
The Malabarians lacked intent going forward and the huge amount of possession that fell their way was because of the backward and sideways passes they played in their own defensive half.
3. Minerva maintained their cohesive structure throughout the game
Gokulam lacked attacking intent
Soon after falling a man short due to the sending off of their forward for a late tackle on the opposition goalkeeper, Minerva Punjab ensured that they do not let the visitors make their numerical superiority count. They got all ten men behind the ball and maintained their defensive structure throughout the rest of the 70 minutes, ensuring that there was little penetration from the Malabarians.
The lack of attacking intent by Gokulam further helped Minerva’s cause. The game showed everyone why the Warriors have one of the best defensive records in the league, despite lying in a disappointing seventh position in the table.
2. Was the red card an act called upon by Minerva?
In the 19th minute of the game, a loose back-pass from Wunyanyg Muirang for goalkeeper Arnab Das Sharma, allowed the high-pressing Zacharie to get himself a chance on goal. But, his challenge on the oncoming goalkeeper was a mistimed one, forcing the referee to show the Ivorian forward a yellow card.
It could have stayed as a yellow, had the quartet of club owner Ranjit Bajaj, head coach Paul Munster, the booked forward Zacharie and Lancine Toure not argued too much with the fourth official and the referee. Minerva Punjab could have ended the game with eleven men on the pitch, had these four not decided to create a fuss out of a seemingly deserved booking.
1. Will Minerva Punjab ever learn from their mistakes?
When you lose a player, your team needs to be more careful while dealing with the referees. But Minerva seemed to not know this simple, yet effective unwritten rule and continued to invite more trouble for themselves after the sending off of Zacharie.
It was Toure again, along with midfielder Prabjot Singh getting into a heated discussion with the referee. This time though, the official let the duo go and the latter was soon replaced for the man who went on to play a big role in giving Minerva a point from the game, Moinuddin Khan.