Minerva Punjab and Shillong Lajong played out an engaging 2-2 draw at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong on Friday.
Shillong Lajong coach Alison Kharsyntiew made six changes in the starting XI which went down 2-4 against Churchill Brothers in the last match. Phurba Lachenpa, Rakesh Pradhan, Kynsailang Khongsit, Sheen Stevenson and Mebankhraw Khyriem made way for Neithovilie Chalieu, Allen Lyngdoh Nongbri, Kenstar Kharshong, Nabin Rabha and Novin Gurung.
Minerva also made three changes in their lineup which lost 1-0 to Gokulam in Kozhikode. Bhaskar Roy, Lungtinmang Haokip and Bala Alhassan were replaced by Arshdeep Singh, Deepak Devrani and Jagpreet Singh.
It was an end-to-end affair right from the start as both sides looked desperate for goals. Minerva enjoyed more of the ball in the initial stage while Lajong focused on counter-attacks.
Phrangki Buam broke the deadlock from one such counter-attack in the 24th minute. Deepak Devrani’s disastrous backpass went to Buam who entered the box from the left side and found the back of the net with a curling shot.
Lajong doubled their lead in the 43rd minute when Samuel Lyngdoh ran down the middle of the park after receiving a pass from a counter-attack. Four Lajong players were present in the attacking third. Samuel found Allen inside the box who tapped the ball into an empty net.
William Opoku pulled one back for Minerva at the stroke of halftime. Joseph Edafe received a through ball and entered the penalty box. He then went past a Lajong defender and squared the ball for an unmarked Opoku who slotted it home.
The second half began in an odd manner as Minerva Punjab made three substitutions at the very beginning. But within a minute they had to call back Bala Dahir as six foreigners had taken the field for the visitors.
Akashdeep, Deepak Devrani and Jagpreet Singh were benched and Akash Sangwan, Kouassi Alexandre and Bala Dahir. Minerva were penalised and were forced to play with ten men for the rest of the 45 minutes as Jaspreet was never allowed to return to the field.
The reigning champions finally equalised in the 75th minute via Philip Njoku’s strike. Njoku entered the Lajong box and tried to play a one-two with Alex. Alex’s return fell to Njoku who blasted the ball into the net.