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Minerva concede injury-time goal against Abahani Dhaka in AFC Cup match, break Chennaiyin hearts

Masih Saighani struck the lone goal in the third minute of the added time, which rendered Chenniayin’s 3-2 win over Manang Marshyangdi Club of Nepal in a simultaneous Group E match in Guwahati.

football Updated: Jun 26, 2019 20:48 IST
PTI
PTI
Guwahati
Minerva,Chennaiyin,Abahani Dhaka
Players of Minerva Punjab FC (in black) and Chennaiyin FC (in white) in action during their AFC Cup Football match, at Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium, Sarusajai in Guwahati, Wednesday, June 19, 2019. (PTI)

Minerva Punjab conceded an added time goal to suffer a dramatic 0-1 defeat against Abahani Limited Dhaka and deny a maiden knock-out berth for Chennaiyin FC in the AFC Cup here Wednesday.

Masih Saighani struck the lone goal in the third minute of the added time, which rendered Chenniayin’s 3-2 win over Manang Marshyangdi Club of Nepal in a simultaneous Group E match in Guwahati.

The win saw the Bangladesh club advancing to Inter-Zone Semifinals while breaking Minerva’s streak of five draws in the tournament.

A win was not enough for Chennaiyin and they needed favour from Minerva to book a knock-out berth in their maiden appearance in the AFC Cup. The Chennai-based side were hoping for either a win or a draw for Minerva against Abahani but the Dhaka side’s injury time goal broke their hearts.

Abahani ended on top of the group with 13 points while Chennaiyin finished second with 11 points. On same points, Chenniyin would have gone through as they have a better head-head record against Abahani.

Only the group winners qualify to the Inter-Zone Semifinals.

Although Abahani head coach Mario Lemos had said his team would try to stop Minerva, the Bangladesh side did not shy away from attacking from the start.

The first opportunity, though, was created by the Minerva duo of Samuel Lalmuapuia and Makan Chote when the latter’s cross was headed goalwards by Samuel but without the desired result.

It was Abahani show in the first half with the likes of Kervens Belfort, Nabib Jibon and Saad Uddin putting pressure on the Minerva defence, which buckled on several occasions. However, Abahani could not finish and Minerva custodian Bhaskar Roy rarely found it difficult to keep the shots fired at him at bay.

In the 34th minute, Uddin found himself in a good position outside the box but the subsequent left-footed shot was too weak to trouble the Minerva goalkeeper. Minutes later, the Abahani players were at it again and strung together passes that left the Minerva defence dazed. The end result again was a fairly disappointing effort from Sohel Rana that found itself straight into the goalkeeper’s gloves.

The 41st minute saw a Minerva attack almost coming to fruition but Moinudeen, who got hold of the loose ball with all the space and time to create a goal, ended up skying the shot from inside the box. Action in the second half considerably slowed down with Abahani finding the odd chance to break into the Minerva half without any result.

A rare moment of excitement in the second half came late in the 84th minute through a set-piece opportunity for Minerva as Kalif Alhassan’s free-kick had the right power and direction but Mohd Alam rose to the occasion to parry it away for a corner.

Samuel and Moinudeen increased the pressure in the next few minutes, resulting in a melee in the box that culminated with a misdirected shot by the latter.

As the game was petering out to a draw, Saighani put a terrific header to score in added time to hand Abahani the match and a knock-out berth.

First Published: Jun 26, 2019 20:33 IST