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History beckons for Minerva before their last throw of dice

History beckons for Minerva before their last throw of dice

But for Minerva the equation was simple: win the last game and take the I-League 2017-18 trophy home.

While an outright win will guarantee them the title, even a draw or a loss may still see them through provided the other two outcomes in Kolkata and Kozhikode go accordingly. Placed fourth in the points table with 30 points, East Bengal will have to first beat NEROCA and then hope table-toppers Minerva Punjab FC (32 points) don't triumph.

The title looked wrapped up a few days ago but leaders Minerva Punjab's shocking defeat to Chennai City once again left the race for the silverware tantalisingly poised.

Both teams pushed for a victor towards the dying minutes of the match but with Minerva not winning their game, the motivation also seemed lacking. Churchill Brothers are now sitting on 17 points and anything less than a win can't avert the peril for the Goan outfit.

Minerva should have doubled its lead in the 64th minute when Kassim Aidara played one-two with Chencho but the latter's cross towards Sangwan, who was unmarked, went out for a goal kick.

All India Football Federation President Praful Patel congratulated Minerva Punjab Football Club after the Chandigarh based Club was crowned the champion of the I-League. "It's all about keeping yourself cool and expect a very tough match", he told the media at Panch Kula.

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Fernandes also mentioned that a new era in Indian football beckons where new clubs are taking over the legacy. It is not exactly first of such an approach as club owner, Ranjit Bajaj, had earlier revealed that several of his players were approached by bookies for match-fixing. Now it's good for the Indian football that smaller clubs are fighting neck-to-neck with the clubs. "Only Indian football will benefit from this", he added. "We think about our game", Khogen Singh responded with confidence. Our aim, our objective, our motto is to win the match. If we win this match, we will end up as the winners.

Having had a turbulent season full of ups and downs, Bagan head coach knows that there is pressure to win. Incidentally, that was the maiden season of the I-League. "With the rise of underdogs and pulsating matches seeing a shift of power from the traditional power-horses, the I-League has provided all form of entertainment from goal-fest action to last-minute drama", the AIFF said in a statement yesterday.

East Bengal ringed in as many as six changes from their 2-2 draw against Shillong Lajong.

After winning the second division past year, Neroca (31 points) added to the aura of the underdog.

The team had five wins in the first seven games this season and the trio of Bhutanese Chencho Gyeltshen and Ghana's Willaim Opoku and Eric Dano played crucial roles.


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