The Minerva boss was happy with a point on the road against Chennai…

Minerva Punjab have managed a fine start to their maiden I-League campaign as they salvaged a point against Chennai City’s star-studded side. Despite being dominated for the best part of 90 minutes, coach Surinder Singh is hopeful of turning things around.

Reflecting on the result, in the post-match press conference, he said, “You should always aim high. We have got one point in our first away game. We tried [to get all three points]. The boys performed well, wanted to score and win. It was an attacking game from our boys. Chennai City also had a good game. It was a good start from both teams. It will be a boost to both teams.”

City looked the most dominant team on the pitch as they almost broke the deadlock on numerous occasions. However, the Minerva gaffer denied acceding as he stated that neither team had looked equipped to seal a victory at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

“In the first half, they had two chances, but so did we,” said the manager, after interrupting the journalist’s question. “Both the teams were not in the rhythm. It was only our first game, and it will take time. It’s still early stages. If you see the ball possession, our team was better in the second half also.”

Minerva’s reliance on youngsters and their motive to nurture them was evident, but they took their philosophy to the next level by bringing on teenager Krishna Pandit in the final few nervy minutes.

“You can see that we brought on Krishna Pandit,” said Singh. “He is an under-19 player, but he performed very well. I’m happy that he’s able to play with senior players in the I-League. He’ll get his chances, along with other youngsters in the team. Giving him 10-15 minutes was to give him exposure as playing in a high-pressure game like today’s game will shape him for the future of the club and country.”

“Germanpreet [Singh] and Vinit [Rai] are still young, but they did very well in their role. We have more players like them and, in the future, we will benefit hugely. They have also played at this level before. Germanpreet played for Dempo last season.

“When the time comes, we will give opportunities to more players. They have done their job as defensive midfielders as they contained Chennai’s midfielders Dhanpal [Ganesh] and Denson [Devadas] superbly.”

Manandeep Singh and Joel Sunday had a decent game against City’s resolute backline, but the manager admitted that his players struggled in the final third. He said, “We were not able to click in the attacking third. It’s just the start. We have not got any friendly match prior to the tournament. This is the first match the players have played together.”

City, despite earning a point in their I-League opener, cannot be as contented as Minerva as they failed to capitalise on their home advantage. Asked to comment on City, the Chandigarh-born coach said, “It’s a good team. They can do well. They gave a good performance; my expectation was also the same. They have signed some good players with experience, who can make a difference.”

The Warriors will travel to Mizoram on January 13 to take on Aizawl at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium.