Minerva Punjab held by Abahani Dhaka 2-2 in AFC Cup match
Former I-League champions Minerva Punjab FC were held to a 2-2 draw by Abahani Dhaka of Bangladesh in their AFC Cup match in Dhaka on Wednesday.
Mahmoud Al Amnah (16th) and Sreyas Gopalan (42nd) scored for Minerva while Nabib Newas Jibon (20th) and Sunday Chizoba (48th) were on target for the home side in the Group E match at Bangabandhu National Stadium.
Minerva Punjab made two changes to the playing eleven which played out a goal-less stalemate against Chennaiyin FC in their opening match with goalkeeper Bhaskar Roy and midfielder Harminder Singh being handed the starts.
The Punjab-based side are still searching for their maiden win in the AFC Cup.
Sunday Chizoba showed the home side’s intent when he fired a shot just wide in the first minute itself but Minerva responded immediately with a powerful strike from Mahmoud Al Amnah which Abahani goalkeeper Shahidul Alam did well to tip it over.
A touch of quality almost put Minerva in front when Al Amnah’s deep cross from the right was brilliantly controlled by Samuel Lalmuanpuia before he curled just wide of the top-right corner.
Minerva took the lead when a low cross from Makan Chote was turned in by Al Amnah in the 16th minute. Abahani soon responded and they equalised just four minutes later when Sohel Rana’s cross was fire in by Nabib Jibon.
The home side then saw Chizoba’s shot saved by Minerva goalie Bhaskar Roy before the follow-up was cleared off the line. Kervens Belfort then found Chizoba after a surging run through the middle and the Nigerian made space for a shot but fired just over from 20 yards.
Minerva regained the lead after a dreadful defensive error in the 42nd minute. A misplaced pass across the 18-yard line was seized upon by substitute Sreyas Gopalan who smashed the ball into the corner. Gopalan had replaced midfielder Harminder Singh after 38 minutes.
Just three minutes into the second half, Abahani found the equaliser. Waly Faisal’s free-kick from the right came back off the bar and rebounded off a defender before Chizoba shot the ball home from a yard out.
Kalif Alhassan almost scored a spectacular third for Minerva but his long-range volley flashed wide. Nabib Jibon came close to his second of the game when he curled an effort narrowly wide just after the hour mark.
With 14 minutes remaining, Gopalan’s header went just over and the visitors missed a better chance moments later when Amandeep Singh shot tamely wide from an excellent position.
Nabib Jibon then shot into the side-netting from close range and there was one final chance for the home side but Belfort headed just over in the dying minutes.
Abahani face another Indian opponent when they travel to play Chennaiyin on April 30. Minerva will host Nepal’s Manang Marshyangdi Club on May 1 in Bhubaneswar.