Panchkula, Feb 20 (IANS) Minerva Punjab FC faced a shock 0-1 defeat at the hands of giant killers Gokulam Kerala FC which dented their title aspirations in an I-League encounter here on Tuesday.
Henry Kisekka (30th) scored the winner as Gokulam hit the crossbar thrice before getting their hard earned goal in away conditions.
With this win, Gokulam Kerala have now astonishingly beaten Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Minerva Punjab in back to back games.
Gokulam climbed to sixth in the points table whereas Minerva Punjab (29 points from 15 games) remained in second position behind leaders Neroca FC (31 points from 17 games).
Minerva Punjab made four tactical changes in their squad from their previous encounter against East Bengal as Amandeep, Shouvik, Bazie and Rakshit made way for debutant left-back Akashdeep, left winger Akash Sangwan, defensive midfielder Randeep and Nepal International Goalkeeper Kiran.
Gokulam Kerala were also forced to make four changes to their squad due to suspension and injury issues. Clearly, the tactical changes made by Minerva Punjab didn’t pay off and Gokulam scored the winner in the 75th minute with the help of a bicycle kick by Henry Kisekka.
Gokulam showed their attacking edge from the very first minute itself as the attacking trio of Kivi, Henry and Salam made life difficult for the Minerva defenders.
William tried his luck in the 15th minute to give the home side an early lead but his powerful shot was blocked. Minerva’s gameplay was sloppy in the 1st half due to the fact that they couldn’t keep the ball in midfield.
The combination of Randeep, Kassim and William was not working too well although Minerva attacked really well near the 35th-minute mark but couldn’t tickle the scoreboard. Randeep, who was on a yellow card, was taken off in the 40th minute and first team regular Amandeep took his place in defensive midfield. There were a total of 4 bookings which indicates that play in the first half was pretty rough.
The first half ended with both the teams failing to convert with the scoreline at 0-0.
Minerva tried to control the game from the start of the 2nd half but constant injuries to Gokulam players disrupted their play. The injury break in the game helped Gokulam to organise themselves well as their vicious attacks kept the Minerva defence on their back foot.
Finally, the moment of the match came in the 75th minute when a short cross by Lakra was taken first time by Henry. The ball hit the crossbar and fell straight to Henry again who scored with a sensational bicycle kick to silence the home crowd.
Minerva then went all out in attack in the final few minutes of the game in order to find a vital equalizer but both William and goalkeeper Kiran missed the goal post by a whisker in the 89th and 95th minutes respectively.