Minerva Punjab have gained their first point at home after playing out a drab goalless draw against Churchill Brothers at the Guru Nanak stadium in Ludhiana.
The home side made two changes to the team that was taken apart by East Bengal last Sunday with Loveday Enyinnaya and David Nghaite coming in for Simranjeet Singh and Manandeep Singh. Kareem Nurain was handed the captain’s armband while Ivan Filatov led the lines for The Warriors.
Churchill Brothers, understandably so, started with the same team that upset the defending champions Bengaluru FC on Friday. The impressive Chesterpaul Lyngdoh and Sorabuddin Mollick kept their places on the wings while Anthony Wolfe was deployed as the lone striker.
The game got off to a scrappy start at the Guru Nanak stadium, thanks to a pitch that resembled a ploughed field rather than a football pitch.
First chance of the game went the way of the home side when Victor Amobi went on a brilliant run from his own half down the left but Adil Khan was alert enough to marshall him wide before he found Filatov in the 13th minute.
There were shouts for penalty from the Churchill players just before the half-hour mark when Loveday clipped Wolfe just outside the area, with the momentum carrying the Churchill striker inside the box. But the referee awarded a free kick correctly and booked Loveday for the foul. Adil Khan’s free kick, though, flashed just over the bar.
Minerva could have scored a free kick themselves three minutes later but Priyant Singh was alert enough to push Kareem’s curler on to the bar.
Churchill went close to taking the lead towards the end of the first half when Wolfe did well to get to the byline and flash a cross across the box, only for Arashpreet to turn it out before Chesterpaul got a touch. From the ensuing corner, Churchill managed to bundle the ball in but the referee deemed it to have crossed the byline for a corner in the buildup.
Both teams went into the break level.
In the second half, it was the home team that started well and Amobi should have handed Minerva the lead in the 56th minute when he robbed the ball in midfield and combined with Filatov and burst into the penalty box, only to see his toe-poke diverted for a corner by Priyant Singh.
Though Minerva brought on Manandeep Singh for a largely unimpressive Filatov, the move failed to pay dividends as both teams failed to build up a decent rhythom on an unhelpful pitch.
Though Kareem and Wolfe had half chances towards the end, the quality of finishing left a lot to be desired as the game meandered to a stalemate.
Minerva Punjab are still rooted to the bottom of the table while Churchill are now eighth and face an arduous journey to Shillong next.