Lalrinchhana’s 69th-minute strike helped relegation-threatened Aizawl FC beat defending champions Minerva Punjab FC 1-0 in a crucial I-League 2018-19 fixture on Friday at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium, Panchkula.
Paul Munster made five changes in the Minerva Punjab starting XI which went down 1-0 against Shillong Lajong in their last match. Spanish midfielder Juan Quero made his debut for the club while Arsh Saini, Arashpreet Singh, Amandeep Singh and Dilli Ram Sanyasi were named in the line-up.
Stanley Rozario made three changes with Lalkhawluiamawia, Rochharzela and Hminthang Mawia coming in for Lalrinchhana, Ansumana Kromah and Vanlalthanga.
Both teams took a safety-first approach in the first half with the intention of not conceding as opposed to taking the game to the opposition. It was a dull first half which witnessed hardly any noteworthy attack.
Aizawl FC came out in the second half with intent and looked threatening right from the onset. The visitors got back-to-back chances thanks to their persistence in attack. Isak Vanlalrautfela got a golden opportunity to score the opening goal after a cross from Vanlalthanga. Isak, who only had the goalkeeper to beat, saw his header go straight in the hands of Arshdeep Singh.
The second chance was created by Lalrinchhana from the left and he did well to find Kromah on the edge of the box. The Liberian forward laid it off for Kareem Omoloja whose shot hit the woodwork, much to the disappointment of Rozario.
Aizawl finally broke the deadlock in the 69th minute. Leonce Dodoz fed Isak with a long ball on the right side. Thereafter, Isak, who was in acres of space, floated a cross which was headed home with ease by Lalrinchhana.
Munster brought in debutant Mahmoud Al Amna in the final 15 minutes of the match but the former East Bengal midfielder failed to inspire the home side.
Aizawl move up to the seventh position in the league table having garnered 14 points from 15 matches. Minerva Punjab remain on the seventh position with the same number of points as Aizawl but are placed eighth due to the north-eastern outfit having scored more goals in the league.