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I-League: Minerva Punjab begin title defense against Churchill Brothers

Minerva Punjab FC open their campaign in this year’s I League against Churchill Brothers at Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula on Sunday.

football Updated: Oct 27, 2018 16:57 IST
I-League,Minerva Punjab,Churchill Brothers
Minerva Punjab take on Churchill Brothers in the I-League on Sunday.(AIFF)

Defending champions Minerva Punjab FC begin their title defence in the Hero I-League with a home game against Goan giants Churchill Brothers in Panchkula on Sunday.

The ‘Warriors’ from Punjab have a 2-1 head-to-head advantage going into the game with the former two-time winners.

Both teams have new strategists at the helm in the form of Irishman Paul Munster for the champions and Romanian Petre Gigiu for the Goans and with new look squads from last year, it will be interesting to see what impressions they form at the beginning of the season.

Technical director and UEFA Pro-license holder coach Paul Munster, is a 36-year old who played as a striker in Canada and comes to India after successful coaching stints in Sweden with youth teams. It should hold them in good stead because Minerva is known for their good youth setup as well as for scouting and nurturing good young talent, in their brief but impressive history so far.

He sounded professional in the build-up opining and said, “We are the champions and so every team will be up against us. The players need to step up. Once the game starts, its all about the two teams and 90 minutes out at the pitch.” Minerva’s squad for the league once again reflects their focus on youth.

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In a potentially exciting forward line, 20-year old sensation from Kohima, Hitova Ayemi, may be the surprise package this time around for them. He will have company in the duo of experienced forward C S Sabeeth, who is on a welcome return to form after scoring nine goals for Ozone FC in an impressive second division I-League campaign last year, and Ghanian strike man William Opoku, whose five goals last year played a key part in Minerva’s title win.

Speaking of exciting young talent, the champions also have the likes of Nongdamba Naorem in their ranks, the former Arrows winger who scored one of the best goals ever seen in Indian football in the last edition.

Then there is the ambidextrous winger Makan Winkle Chothe who has made it up the Minerva ranks with virtuoso performances in their youth ranks, Delhi forward Dilliram Sanyasi as well as Souvik Das, a 23-year old play maker from Bengal.

Deepak Devrani, Ashpreet Singh and Akashdeep Singh will provide the Minerva defense with some continuity while Arshdeep Singh or Bhaskar Roy will likely man the Minerva goal post. Another quality addition to the champions squad this year will be Japanese forward Yu Kuboki, roped in from Sydney Olympic FC after being in imperious form for them last season.

First Published: Oct 27, 2018 16:57 IST