Minerva seek maiden win in AFC Cup in first home match
Unbeaten in their two group matches so far, former I-League champions Minerva Punjab would look to turn draws into wins when they play Manang Marshyangdi Club of Nepal in the AFC Cup here Wednesday.
After the goalless draw against fellow Indian side Chennaiyin FC in their group opener in Ahmedabad, Minerva were close to registering win in their second match but Abahani Limited came back twice to pick up a point in a 2-2 draw in Dhaka.
Minerva are now at third spot in Group E with two points while Manang Marshyangdi are at the bottom after losing both their matches so far.
The Punjab side, who were making their AFC Cup debut as 2017-18 I-League champions, will be playing their first home match at the Kalinga Stadium and would be looking to notch up their maiden win at the continental stage.
Minerva were in deep trouble after the Odisha government withdrew the initial permission to use Kalinga Stadium but were later allowed to use the venue after the intervention of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.
They will have to search for venues for the remaining two home matches but as of now the Minerva players can focus on their game against Manang Marshyangdi on Wednesday.
For the Nepalese side, however, a defeat on Wednesday would all but end their chances of progression after just three games.
Only one team out of four will progress to Inter-Zone Play-off Semifinals from Group E after six matches each.
For Minerva, the addition of Samuel Lalmuanpuia and Mahmoud Al Amna has given more bite upfront but the Punjab side will have to do better in their defence against the Nepalese side who will be playing a ‘do-or-die’ match.
Coach Sachin Badhade will be expecting his foreign striker Kalif Alhassan to open his account in the AFC Cup.
Manang Marshyangdi are yet to score a goal in the group stage and forwards Afeez Olawale Oladipo and Oluwawunmi Somide will need to step up if they have to keep their qualification hopes alive.