Panchkula, October 28: Defending Champions Minerva Punjab played their first match of the 12th Hero I-League season hosting Goan giants Churchill Brothers on home turf at the Tau Devi Lal stadium in Panchkula, Chandigarh.
The two sides split points in a goalless draw at the end of 90 minutes, in a match characterised by the missing final ball and a dearth of imagination in attack. Churchill Brothers gave a good account of themselves while Minerva showed glimpses of what they are capable of in the second half, but both teams failed to break the deadlock.
Irish UEFA Pro license holder Paul Munster, Minerva’s newly appointed technical director and coach Sachin Badadhe, chose to go in with an attacking formation with Nigerian Philip Njoku and the young and talented Souvik Das as wing backs in front of a three man deep defense led by Ivorian Lancine Toure.
Akash Sangwan and the mercurial Nongdamba Naoren, also their under-22 start of the day, were played attacking left and right wingers. William Opoku Asiedu and Manandeep Singh were the target men upfront while Bhaskar Roy was preferred to man the Minerva woodwork.
Churchill also had a new coach for the season in Romanian Petre Gigiu and he opted for a more conservative 4-4-2 formation with Trinidadian Willis Plaza and and Gambian Dawda Cessay upfront with a four man midfield led by Ugandan Khalid Aucho and Richard Costa at its heart. Lamgoulen Hangshing was their under-22 pick in midfield and the youngster certainly impressed in the game before he was replaced early in the second half, with his technique and vision. James Kithan was preferred in goal and the four-man backline was led by the likes of Lebanese Hussein Eldor and Mohanraj.
Minerva started from left to right of the field in their now familiar deep and light blue stripes while Churchill were in all red.
The Goan side however had the better of the exchanges in the first half, led by good performances by Dawda Cessay in particular who was the most enterprising, as well as Aucho and Hangshing in midfield.
In the ninth minute the Trinidadian found himself at the end of a free header after a corner taken short by Cessay saw Aucho float in a wonderful cross from the right flank. His low angled header went wide from just outside the goalkeeper’s area inside the box. A minute later Cessay unleashed a low angled drive which beat Roy and just went wide off the Minerva left upright.