Chencho Gyeltshen struck in the 80th minute to hand his side a 1-0 win over Indian Arrows in their I-League match held at Guru Nanak Stadium in Punjab on Monday. Arrows were on the receiving end of a 0-2 defeat when these two sides met a few weeks ago in Goa.
Khogen Singh made three changes from their 2-1 win over Chennai City FC. Rakshit Dagar made his way into the lineup for Arshdeep Saini in goal. Sukhdev Singh and Amandeep Singh came in as Lago Bei was relegated to the bench. Souvik Das was not even in the 18-man squad.
After a break of thirteen days from their last game, which incidentally was the 2-0 defeat at home against the same opponents, Luis Norton de Matos made two alterations of his own.Abhijit Sarkar and Aniket Anil Jadhav were relegated to the bench. West Bengal duo Rahim Ali and Abhishek Halder were ushered into the first eleven.
The Portuguese chose to go with four men at the back. Goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem had a backline of Boris Singh Thangjam, Deepak Tangri, Jitendra Singh and Sanjeev Stalin lining up in front of him.
Suresh Singh Wangjam, Amarjit Singh Kiyam and Halder played in a tight-knit three-man midfield. On-loan from Bengaluru FC, striker Edmund Lalrindika was deployed centrally and he had Rahul Kannoly Praveen and Rahim Ali offering him support from the flanks.
While Minerva Punjab had the lion’s share of possession in the first half, the team of assembled Indian teenagers did appear a spirited lot by keeping the early danger in check. Girik Mahesh Khosla and William Opoku kept on piling the pressure but neither of them was unable to find the back of the net.
It was Ivorian defender Guy Eric Dano who caused the first real trouble of the match post the half-hour mark when his volleyed attempt hit the upright. A goalless first half drew to a close soon with the Indian Arrows leaving the field without a single shot on target.
In a see-saw second half where the Arrows had more possession, the teenagers were just not able to break the robust Minerva backline. Rahul Kannoly had one attempt to lob in the opener from a through ball but goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar came up with a brilliant sliding clearance.
Kassim Aidara too missed a glaring opportunity to head home from a freekick but Chencho made up for that and his quiet first half five minutes later.
The Bhutanese international with a moment of individual brilliance drifted towards the right, beating Boris and Deepak, With his favoured right foot, he let loose as Dheeraj got a touch with his leg but it ended up going into the net nonetheless.
Indian Arrows' shoulder dropped immediately after the setback and the attacking substitutions of Aniket Jadhav and Ninthoinganba Meetei had no effect as the de Matos-coached side succumbed to yet another loss against the Warriors.
The Ranjit Bajaj owned side now have a three-point gap at the top of the table after five unbeaten games and the last four were all victories. They now start their away journeys, first up to the home of the title-holders Aizawl FC in nine days' time.
AIFF's development side have two home games up next - against Gokulam on 22nd and Shillong Lajong on Boxing Day.