Minerva Punjab FC took a huge step in their quest for a maiden I-League title when they beat defending champions Aizawl FC by 2-0 at their new home ground in Panchkula on Monday.
The win helps the Punjab-based side leapfrog NEROCA FC and East Bengal FC to the top of the table with 32 points from their 16 games.
Minerva coach Khogen Singh was delighted that his side’s game plan had paid off in Monday’s clash.
“Both sides played a good game. Before the match, we had planned how we were going to play today after studying the opposition and it came off today,” he stated.
With just two games remaining now, the pressure will be very much on the league leaders to attain the title and Khogen Singh stressed on the need to maintain positivity within the squad.
“We are focused on the games only. We have to let the boys enjoy the game and let them stay together. We also have to convince them that its only two matches remaining and the title is in our hands. So think positive, play like a winner and walk like a winner,” he explained.
As for the difference in quality between the I-League and Indian Super League (ISL), the Minerva tactician said there was hardly any.
“I think there is not much difference in the quality of the play but I just think the ISL has more foreign players. I think money wise there is a difference but game-wise there is none. In Super Cup, we hope to show that the I-League teams are as good the ISL ones,” he said with utmost confidence.
Minerva defender Guy Eric Dano was declared the man-of-the-match for his solid display and the Ivorian concurred with his head coach regarding the game-plan for the day.
“We changed the plan for our game. We played nice football and deserved the win. I think we will win the championship. If we keep playing like we did today, I have no doubt we can win the title,” he remarked.
Aizawl coach Santosh Kashyap on the other hand, blamed fatigue for his side’s display on the day.
“I think fatigue is the concern for us since there is no recovery time for my team. It’s tough to be playing so many matches closely. Minerva are a very good team and they put us under a lot of pressure but we defender very well in the first half. Second half also we did well but they scored, and after that the game opened up. Then we also attacked and they also attacked, so good game but I think fatigue is a very big concern,” he said about the game.
The recently appointed coach also explained why his side had abandoned their short passing game for the clash against Minerva.
“We play in an artificial turf at home and it’s a flat pitch. So we can play a passing game and move up the pitch. Here the surface was uneven and we cannot play constructive football here. So it’s better to be on the safe side and play high balls and put pressure on the opposition which Minerva did very well. We have advantage in our home since we can play our style of play, a passing game. Minerva Punjab traditionally play a long ball game and it suits their home ground,” Kashyap said before signing off.