A 58th minute strike from William Opoku helped Minerva Punjab FC edge out Shillong Lajong 1-0 in their ninth match of I-League on Sunday afternoon.
Minerva made just one change in their starting lineup by bringing in Lago Dogbo Bei in place of Deepak Devrani. Abhishek Ambekar, who started in the left wing against Mohun Bagan, was deployed in the left-back position. Khogen Singh deployed Chencho Gyeltshen upfront with Lago Bei and William Opoku attacking from the wings. Moinuddin Khan played just behind the Bhutanese star.
For Lajong, central defender Laurence Doe was back in the starting XI replacing Kynsailang Khongsit.
The game started on a positive note and the home side went close to score the opening goal as early as in the first minute. Hardy Cliff Nongbri sent a long ball for Aiman Al-Hagri inside the penalty box who was one-on-one with Rakshit Dagar. Unfortunately, the forward failed to control the ball and it went straight to the Minerva custodian.
Lajong got yet another chance to break the deadlock around the 18th minute mark when Alen Deory’s shot deflected of a Minerva defender and almost went in but for an alert Dagar.
Bobby Nongbet introduced Redeem Tlang midway through the first half to replace the wasteful Al-Hagri.
At the end of the first half, the score-line remained 0-0 with neither team being able to convert their chances.
The away side took control of the game after the break as Khogen Singh's half-time talk seemed to hve had an effect.
The breakthrough came in the 58th minute when William Opoku found the back of the net from Chencho’s pass. The Bhutanese star ran down the left flank and beat Novin Gurung for pace and squared for Opoku inside the box. The Ghanaian striker did the needful by tapping in.
The game opened up completely after Opoku’s goal. Lajong could have equalised within two minutes when Abdoulaye Koffi entered the six-yard box but he was surrounded by too many Minerva defenders and was crowded out.
Koffi had another opportunity soon after but Dagar once again came to the rescue of his side. The striker headed in a cross from Lalmuanpuia but Dagar somehow managed to keep the ball away for a corner.
Girik Khosla was introduced in place Lago Bei who failed to create any impact in the game. Khosla’s introduction upfront further strengthened the Minerva attack as he combined well with Chencho.
Lajong got back-to-back chances in the 80th minute. It all started with Tlang’s shot at goal which was just about kept out by Dagar. From the resulting corner, Doe attempted a back volley which was parried away by Dagar. From the rebound, Koffi skied his effort from close range.
Minerva held to the slender lead and thus opened a four-point gap at the top of the I-League table.