I-League is Minerva Punjab’s to lose, Churchill Brothers fight relegation battle

As things stand in the I-League table, it’s still Minerva Punjab’s title to lose. A win will see them tower above the rest but a loss or draw will mean the rest of the results must go their way.

football Updated: Mar 07, 2018 18:03 IST
Ashutosh Sharma
Ashutosh Sharma
Hindustan Times, Panchkula
I-League,Minerva Punjab,Churchill Brothers
The I-League title is still Minerva Punjab’s title to lose. A win will see them tower above the rest but a loss or draw will mean the rest of the results must go their way. (AIFF)

If all had gone to plan Minerva Punjab FC could have had the title in the bag long time ago. This last round game against Churchill Brothers, who are fighting a relegation battle, would have been the hosts going through the motions.

But that was not to be. The club only into the second season of the I-League had the gumption to dictate play and have their own style which won them games after games setting the pace for the rest.

The fast counter attack caught many defences off guard as the only North Indian Club in I-League built a commanding lead.

Now on the last day of the league, Neroca FC, East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and leader Minerva all playing and having a shot at the title, it’s up to Punjab club to rise to the occasion.

Minerva falter

When it came to crunch time, the inexperienced youths faltered. The move to a new home from Ludhiana started well in the last round of the league as they posted a win against Shillong Lajong, but from here on doubts crept in.

Suddenly, the defense became leaky and the forwards failed time and again to convert chances. East Bengal exposed them with a solitary goal win, the laggards Gokulam Kerala FC also surprised Minerva at home.

EB was surely going to be a tough game, but it was against the likes of Gokulam that Minerva fancied their chances. Aizawl win gave the side a little confidence but all that must have evaporated as the side went down to Chennai City FC away.

Still Minerva’s title to lose

But still as things stand it’s still Minerva’s title to lose. A win will see them tower above the rest but a loss or draw will mean rest of the results must go their way.

“It’s a do or die for both the teams. If they win they will lift title and if we lose we will be relegated. It’s tough to get going in the business end of the league. So the team which takes its chances will win. They (Minerva) will surely come out all guns blazing but I can assure that we are not going to sit back. No quarters will be given and there is a lot at stake for both the sides,” Churchill Brothers coach Alfred Fernandes underlined the importance of match.

Meanwhile, Minerva coach Khogen Singh was frustrated with the boys having not locked in the title yet but added that his boys are prepared for the game tomorrow.

“We can’t do anything about what happens in other matches all we need to do is win our. It’s about our game. We have been talking to players to make sure they don’t take any pressure. We have to believe that we can do this. So instead of pressure I would like my boys to take it as any other game,” he said.

Minerva are likely to make one change with their striker Gagandeep Bali unavailable for the match.

First Published: Mar 07, 2018 18:02 IST