Indian Arrows picked up a 2-1 win over Minerva Punjab at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday courtesy of goals from Rohit Danu (38') and Rahim Ali (47'). Moinuddin Khan (69') scored the consolation goal for the visitors.
Indian Arrows delivered a professional performance against the defending champions to earn the three points from the match.
Floyd Pinto made three changes to the side that lost 3-2 against NEROCA. Narender Ghalot, Ninthoi Meetei and Suresh Singh fail to make the cut and they were replaced by Rahul KP, Anwar Ali, and Rohit Danu in the starting XI.
On the other hand, Paul Munster also made three alterations to the starting XI with the hope of picking up a win after two months. Mahmoud Al Amna started along with Akash Sangwan and Akashdeep Singh as Saurav Rautella, Dilli Ram Sanyasi and Arashpreet Singh were dropped.
It was a slow-burner as neither side had creativity in the attacking third. Minerva stuck to their long ball tactic which was easily dealt with by Anwar Ali and Jitendra Singh at the heart of the defence.
Quero was found operating from a deeper position while Amna had the license to roam freely in the attacking third. Much was expected from the Quero-Amna combination but the duo could not create much. Deepak Tangri did an excellent job to keep a check on Amna as the Syrian was never allowed space in midfield.
Boris Singh troubled Minerva's defence on a couple of occasions with his darting runs from the right flank and was the brightest player on the pitch in the first half.
In the 38th minute, Indian Arrows drew first blood through a set-piece that was executed to perfection. Rahim Ali laid it for Amarjit Singh whose thunderous effort struck the post and Danu did not fail to convert from the rebound.
Arrows continued their bright form after the break and within two minutes from resumption they doubled their lead. Pinto's boys passed the ball crisply inside Minerva's box, giving the defenders no chance to clear their lines and it was Rahim who remained calm to slot it past Arshdeep in goal.
The travelling team kept asking questions of Arrows' defence but Gill was in supreme form under the bar. After Amna was denied by the crossbar, it was Gill who saved a point-blank shot from Akash Sangwan by diving to his left.
Minerva did pull one back through Moinuddin Khan in the 69th minute when the striker produced a peach of a finish from just inside the box.
The Syrian playmaker tested Gill once again in the dying minutes of the match but Gill was equal to the task to keep the scoreline unchanged.
The win saw Arrows move to the seventh spot with 16 points while Minerva Punjab go down to the ninth spot. Pinto cannot rest on his laurels as he has to face table-toppers Chennai City FC on February 8 while Minerva Punjab will continue their search for a win when they take on Saipa FC away from home in an AFC Cup encounter on February 12.