Minerva Punjab emerge champs

Minerva Punjab emerge champs

Khogen Singh's side down Churchill Brothers in concluding game

Minerva Punjab emerge champs

Minerva Punjab FC clinched their maiden I-League crown with a close 1-0 win over Churchill Brothers here on Thursday.

William Asiedu Opoku's goal in the 16th minute proved to be the difference as Minerva, only in their second season in the league, ensured Churchill's relegation to the second division.

The side from Punjab finished with 35 points from 18 games, pipping the likes of Neroca FC, who held East Bengal to a 1-1 draw to finish second on the table with 32 points, in their debut season. East Bengal, with 31 points, finished fourth below Mohun Bagan (31), who also played out a 1-1 with Gokulam Kerala draw at the EMS Stadium.

Minerva started on the front foot, with the attacking trio of Chencho Gyeltshen, William and Girik Khosla combined really well to put Churchill's defence in jeopardy.

Chencho almost scored the opener in eighth minute when a low Girik cross wasn't dealt with properly by Osagie Monday, which gave the forward a chance but he failed to captalise on it.

Minutes later, Akash Sangwan had an opportunity to score from Left but his shot went straight into the Churchill's goalkeeper Ricardo. The breakthrough came in 16th minute when William converted from point blank range after a rebound from a Girik's shot fell right into his feet. Minerva ended the half on top, leading 1-0.

Churchill restarted on a aggressive note in their bid to find the equaliser but poor finishing kept them behind. In the 51st minute, Britto PM had a good chance from just six yards out but his weak effort was saved by the Minerva goalkeeper Kiran Limbu.

The big chance for Churchill came in 61st minute when Dawda Ceesay created space inside box to set himself for a shot but ball just went over the crossbar.

Four minutes later, Britto missed the opportunity of the match when he couldn't find the way past Kiran after finding himself in a one-on-one situation.

In another show of combination play, Chencho was brilliantly set-up by William in 73rd minute inside the box but he decided to cut inside and in doing so lost the ball possession.

Minerva centreback Guy Eric Dano got a chance in 80th minute when he took a shot after a deflected corner kick but his shot was nowhere near target.

Minerva's Bali Gagandeep too had a chance to put the contest to bed but his weak effort was easily saved by Ricardo.

The miss, though, hardly mattered as Minerva held firm to emerge champions.

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