The defending champions drew their second game of the campaign on Friday evening.
Reigning champions Minerva Punjab FC squared off against Shillong Lajong FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong in an exciting 2-2 draw on Friday evening. The game started off with an end to end action and it remained the same until the last whistle at the 90th minute. Phrangki Buam gave the lead to Lajong after capitalising from an unfortunate back pass from Deepak Devrani and then put the ball into the net with a sweet finish.
Shillong doubled their advantage with a textbook example of a good counter attack as they caught the Minerva defence unawares and Samuel Lyngdoh rounded off the move. Edafe’s run into the box caused riot in the Shillong defence and he teed it up to Opoku at the edge of the box who caught the goalkeeper out of position and pulled one back for Minerva right
at the stroke of halftime. The second half began with controversy as Minerva Punjab’s substitutions fielded more foreigners than the regulations allowed and as a result, they had to play the entire second half with 10 men. The defending champions proved their grit and determination however as Philip Njoku’s powerful shot from the edge of the box found its way into the net to level the scores at 2-2.
Here are the talking points from the game.
5. A battle of footballing ideologies
Since the very first minute of the match, it became evident that the game was as much a battle of contrasting style and tactics employed by Alison Kharsyntiew and Paul Munster as much as it was down to individual battles on the pitch. Home side Shillong Lajong resorted to building from the back starting from the goalkeeper and chose to dominate possession.
While this approach cost them a few lapses and unforced errors early on in the match, Kharsyntiew didn’t budge from his approach and his team gradually became comfortable as the match went on, especially after the first goal. Munster on the other hand, asked Minerva to play out quickly, often resulting in long balls and diagonals in the process. They also employed a high pressure early on in the game.
4. Minerva’s early pressure put Shillong Lajong on the back-foot
Minerva Punjab frontline comprising of Edafe, Njoku and Asiedu pressurised the Lajong backline very well in the first portion of the first half and it brought them great results. Shillong struggled to play out from the back, making a lot of unforced errors and throwing possession away cheaply.
The Reds remained suffocated to their half for much of the first half because of the intensity of the press. However, Munster’s men couldn’t sustain it for a long time and they eased up with time which allowed Shillong to crawl its way back into the game in terms of creating chances and carving attacks.
3. Both the sides need to focus on their defensive lapses
Both Minerva and Shillong’s goals in the match happened because of defences switching off and losing concentrations. During the very first goal, Deepak Devrani was chasing a ball in his game and Buam was always second to reach the ball. The wingback, however decided to play a naïve back pass to his keeper which lacked power and precision and Phrangki Buam took advantage and scored.
Shillong’s second goal came when Punjab’s defenders played a dangerously high line and were caught off-guard from a counter during their own set-piece routine. In the case of Minerva’s first goal, there were at least three players in the Shillong box but nobody marked William Opoku who finished the move with great aplomb.
2. Minerva’s set pieces were innovative and precise
Most of Minerva Punjab’s set pieces were taken in an unorthodox manner and Shillong defence often looked without answers. During a freekick early on in the first half, the ball was played to a free man at the edge of the box whose shot was high and wide.
Most of their corner routines were on target and had it not been for the finishing, Minerva could’ve easily scored a couple from dead-ball situations. Paul Munster can take note of the fact that his tweaks are working and only needs more composure during the finish.
1. Shillong Lajong bottled the game in the second half
The second half started with its fair share of controversy as Minerva Punjab made three changes. However, one of those changes involved bringing on a sixth foreigner (according to regulations, a team can have a maximum of five on the field of play at any given time) and Punjab had to play the rest of the game with 10 men.
Alison Kharsyntiew and his men should have used this opportunity to their advantage and piled on the pressure on Minerva but it was Minerva who grew into control of the match and ultimately pulled off the equaliser in the 75th minute through Philip Njoku.