Panchkula (Haryana), Jan 19 (IANS) Minerva Punjab FC fans witnessed a nail-biting finish as the home side snatched a draw from a near-definite loss, scoring an equaliser in the final minute of their I-League game against Gokulam Kerala here on Saturday.
While it were the visitors Gokulam Kerala FC who drew first blood in the 82nd minute through debutant Marcus Joseph, a 10-man Minerva Punjab FC scraped in a beautiful equaliser in the final minute of additional time through Musa Caicedo (90′ + 4′) to share the spoils.
Gokulam’s Marcus Joseph was adjudged the Hero of the Match.
The first-half began with the hosts in their traditional blue stripes, while Gokulam Kerala FC in maroon and orange. Both the teams made four changes in the playing XI.
Arshdeep Singh was back guarding the posts, mid-fielder Sourav Rautella, defenders Akashdeep Singh and Cote D’Ivoirian and forward Kouame Konan Zacharie found a place in the playing XI for Minerva.
Gokulam, on the other hand, introduced Deepak K. and Wungngayam Muirang in defence while Imran Khan and Ghanian Charles Teiko Folley in the attack.
The visitors made their intent very clear from the first minute and would have nearly got a breakthrough in the 2nd minute through an outstanding header from Pritam Singh off an Abhishek Das cross, finding the back of the net, but was disallowed by the referee giving a fresh lease of life to Minerva.
The game, thereafter, saw the visitors making continuous attacks but the defending champions had organised them to deny Gokulam any clear chance to create troubles.
Minerva’s woes took a new turn when in the 20th minute their forward Zacharie was asked to march off the field owing to a red card that was a result of an unnecessary foul committed on the Gokulam keeper Arnab Das inside the box.
Gokulam, who enjoyed a higher possession in the game but neither of the teams could any further chances to draw first blood. Minerva, who were playing with 10 men on the field showcased a lot of composure to deny the visitors any chances by the end of the first half.
The second-half began with Gokulam pressing hard for a lead against a 10-Men Minerva. The home side, on the other hand, ensured a strong defence line denying the visitors any clear chance to take the lead.
A major part of the second half was played around the midfield with the hosts mostly on defence while the tourists attacking in short bursts but was unable to create any clear chance.
Gokulam’s efforts were rewarded in the 82nd minute when debutant Marcus Joseph from Trinidad & Tobago found the back of the net to give the visitors a hard-fought lead.
Gokulam, thereafter, went on an attacking spree but full marks to Minerva defenders who did not allow the visitors the insurance goal as they would have desired for.
Minerva, who were on the verge of a seventh consecutive loss now, did not stop trying and their valiant efforts found results when Souvik das crafted a well-thought pass to Moinuddin inside the box who further headed it to Caicedo.
Caicedo made no mistake in heading the ball inside the goal bringing in a magical equaliser for Minerva Punjab FC during the final minute of additional time as both the teams ended up sharing the spoils.