Defending champions Minerva Punjab kick started their I-League season with a draw sharing the points with Churchill Brothers. The Red Machines failed to convert their chances to grab all three points in the opening game against the club from Punjab.
Tau Lal Devi Stadium saw a draw as Churchill Brothers’ forward players failed to convert easy chances to take the lead. Willis Plaza had the early opportunity which was missed completely and later Uttam Rai, who came in as a substitute in the second half missed a golden chance to win the game which was well provided by Nallapan Mohanraj.
Let’s take a look at the 5 talking points of this encounter.
● Both the sides lacked quality up front:
The game saw many opportunities which were not utilized by both sides. Minerva Punjab evidently missed the spark in their attack. Minerva had their fair share of chances but the killer instinct was missing from the players. Manandeep Singh for most of the game did not make any impact. William Opoku was the only one who seemed to threaten the Churchill defence. While, for the Red Machines, Plaza muffed up the best chance of the half when Hussein Eldor snatched a ball away from a defender deep inside the Minerva half. Cessay was also seen rusty in this game for Churchill Brothers.
● Churchill Brothers missed David Izazola in the front line:
The Red Machines for sure missed the Mexican forward, David Izazola in this encounter against the defending champions. With Plaza missing some golden opportunities, Churchill Brothers needed the Mexican, who could’ve made the difference with his lethal capabilities. David Izazola has represented Mexico in U-20 competitions. He has also won CONCACAF U-20 Championship and secured third position in FIFA U-20 World Cup in the same year 2011. Churchill Brothers missed the Mexican in this opening game of the season.
● Hussein Eldor made the mark:
Lebanese defender Hussein Eldor was a rock at the back for Chruchill and made sure of a clean sheet. Previous season of Churchill Brothers showed how shaky their defense was, conceding 28 goals. This game showed that, The Red Machines has a solid defense at the back. Minerva Punjab threw everything at him but the 24-year old stood tall at his position every time. Eldor is a leader in his own rights and marshalled the backline brilliantly with the help of fellow defender Nenad Novakovic who needs to better his game in the upcoming matches.
● Souvik Das shined as expected:
Souvik Das was brilliant for the Defending champions against Churchill Brothers. He proved again that he is a versatile player and has capabilities of turning the game upside down. He made sure that the crosses went into the box for the strikers from the right flank. Souvik from the right saw the ball fall favourably for the Nigerian, Njoku inside the box. His curling right footer on the turn sailed over the bar. Then a 1-2 between Njoku and Sangwan almost saw the Nigerian through to goal but Eldor denied it. Souvik Das also played some threatening crosses into the box but a goal eluded the game, even as Minerva brought in striker Sathyan Sabeeth for one final push for a win.
● Major miss of the game:
In the 90th minute, Plaza was substituted by Uttam Rai who had a golden chance to win it for the away side in fact, when an innocuousous floater from Mohanraj on the overlap from the left, found him with just Bhaskar to beat. His volley went straight at the keeper, which could’ve been the winner for the Red Machines which could’ve got all three points to kick start the season. The four-man backline was led by the likes of Lebanese Hussein Eldor and Mohanraj for the away side, which was crucial and denied almost every chances that were created by the Defending champions.