The AFC Cup Group E game between Minerva Punjab and Chennaiyin FC ended in a goalless draw on Wednesday at The Arena in Ahmedabad. The John Gregory-managed ISL club started as favourites in the group opener but former I-League champions Minerva played well to hold them to a draw.
The Chennai-based club made three changes to their starting XI from the victorious match against Mumbai City FC in Super Cup last week. Thoi Singh, Holicharan Narzary and Raphael Augusto had replaced Anirudh Thapa, Isaac Vanmalsawma and Gregory Nelson. Dhanpal Ganesh and Jerry Lalrinzuala who are returning after an injury were still seen warming the benches.
On the other hand, Minerva put their faith in their latest recruits forward Samuel Lalmuanpuia and defenders Kareem Nurain and Robert Primus.
Chennaiyin completely dominated the game in the early minutes. Thoi Singh kept on passing the ball to Jeje Lalpekhlua, but unfortunately, the forward player did not seem to be at his best but was still overpowered the opponent's centre backs Kareem Omolaja and Robert Alfred Primus
Raphael Augusto had a chance to score the opening goal in the 10th minute when Jeje laid off an excellent pass to the
Kalif Alhassan and Samuel Lamuanpuia hit two accurate shots from distance but Karanjit Singh managed to deflect the ball.
As soon as the game restarted, Minerva head coach Sachin Badadhe replaced Prabhjot Singh with Moinuddin, whereas, Chennaiyin replaced Halicharan with Anirudh Thapa.
In the 60th minute, Tondonba Singh floated a ball to Jeje, all he had to do was to connect the ball with his head, but he squandered yet again.
Eventually, the match ended in a disappointing draw and both the teams will rue their various missed chances.
Both the Indian sides are placed joint-second in the group, behind Abahani Dhaka, who beat Manang Marshyangdi to take the top spot. They’ll need to play much better to qualify, especially if they want to arrest their slide after an underwhelming domestic season.
Chennaiyin will next take on Nepal’s team Manang Marshyangdi on April 17, whereas, Minerva will take on Abahani Dhaka on the same day.