Panchkula, Feb 23 (IANS) Defending champions Minerva Punjab FC registered a 1-0 win against Neroca FC on Saturday in an I-League tie, thanks to their new Spanish recruit Juan Quero Barraso’s stellar finish.
Barraso scored in the 65th minute as Minerva jumped to the 7th spot in the points table leapfrogging Aizawl FC, Gokulam Kerala FC and Indian Arrows.
Meanwhile, this result ends Minerva’s frustrating winless run after 80 days. The Punjab-based team’s last win came against Quess East Bengal in Kolkata on December 4.
The game began with the defending champions Minerva Punjab FC playing in their traditional blue stripes, while Neroca FC in white. Minerva press hard right from the start. The desperation to score and the wish to walk away with a win that Minerva hasn’t experienced for over 60 days was evident since the kick-off itself.
However, visitors Neroca FC who might have lost the title battle, showcased their fighting spirit making the contest highly entertaining right from the first quarter of the half. Minerva Punjab FC attacked in short intervals using the flanks and the combination of Prabhjot and Quero to supply the ball to their forwards Al-Amna and Caicedo.
The hosts made some interesting runs and crosses inside the box but weren’t able to go past Neroca goalkeeper Lalit Thapa. While Neroca increased their pace in the latter part of the first half, the trio of Katsumi Yusa along with Chencho and Subhash Singh got close in a couple of occasions. But some great goalkeeping display from Nidhin Lal ensured that the visitors could not draw the first blood.
Neroca FC resumed the second half with a series of attempts through Katsumi Yusa and Chencho but the resilient Minerva defence line averted the danger.
Minerva’s efforts finally paid off when a cross from Moinuddin Khan to Juan Quero saw the latter make no mistake in finding the back of the net in the 65th minute, giving the hosts a deserved lead.
Chencho, who was arguably the mainstay of Minerva Punjab FC in their title-winning campaign last season, created a handful of chances during but eventually, faltered inside the box to break the deadlock.
Minerva will now face Quess East Bengal in their last home fixture on March 3 whereas Neroca will travel to Kozhikode to face Gokulam Kerala FC on the same day.