Oluwawunmi Somide scored the all-important equaliser for the Nepalioutfit as they denied the hosts.
A late equaliser from Oluwawunmi Somide ensured Nepal’s Manang Marshyangdi Club could celebrate their first-ever AFC Cup point after a 2-2 draw with India’s Minerva Punjab on Wednesday.
The Nepalese side, who had suffered back-to-back defeats in their maiden AFC Cup campaign, had three good opportunities within the opening five minutes.
The pick of those coming when Nigerian Afeez Oladipo was sent through on goal by countryman Somide, but the forward was denied at close range by a sprawling Minerva goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh.
Minerva Punjab 2-2 Manang Marshyangdi Club AFC Cup highlights
And it proved to be a crucial save, as it was the hosts who then took the lead in the eighth minute. The Manang defence failed to deal with Makan Chote’s cross from the right and Sreyas Gopalan charged down an attempted clearance, forcing the ball home.
The visitors did have a chance to restore parity shortly after the half hour mark when Singh brought down Oluwashina Azeez in the area, but the ‘keeper redeemed himself with a smart save to block Sujal Shrestha’s subsequent spot-kick.
Manang went close again to finding a leveller just before the interval, but Oladipo’s cross-cum-shot from the left evaded both the defender, Singh and the stretching Somide, to roll inches wide of the far post.
But a moment of Nepalese footballing history did finally arrive in the 69th minute of the game. Abhishek Rijal latched onto Kamal Shrestha’s ball across the penalty box and curled an effort that Singh could only help into the far corner of the net, giving Manang their country’s first-ever AFC Cup goal.
The elation at Rijal’s goal turned to disappointment with four minutes remaining however as substitute Moinuddin Khan was fouled inside the box by Biraj Maharjan, and Kareem Omolaja cooly converted the penalty.
And yet there was still a further twist in the tale, as Kamal Shrestha again found himself in space on the right and his inviting cross was headed firmly past Singh by Somide to secure a maiden point for Manang in stoppage time.
The draw is Minerva Punjab’s third in succession and sees them now four points behind Group E leaders and compatriots Chennaiyin FC, while Manang, despite their historic first point in the Continental competition, remain bottom of the standings.
The two face each other again in the return match in Nepal on May 15.