Chennaiyin FC needed a late rescue act by striker Mohammed Rafi to salvage a 1-1 draw against Minerva Punjab FC in their AFC Cup 2019 tie at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Guwahati on Wednesday. Minerva took the lead on the 62nd minute through Samuel Lalmuanpuia only for Rafi to equalize right at the end.
The point keeps Chennaiyin top of Group E with 8 points from 5 matches, but may be dislodged from their perch if Abahani Dhaka wins their fixture against Manang Marshyangdi Club scheduled later on the day. The result also means Chennaiyin qualification to the next stage will depend on the result of their final group match against Manang on June 26.
Chennaiyin FC started the match on a positive note, keeping the ball well and trying to carve out openings in the Minerva backline. Isaac Vanmalsawma tested Minerva goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh from a long ranger just before the half-hour mark, but the 21-year-old goalkeeper kept his cool to thwart the danger.
As the half progressed, however, Minerva grew into the match and looked the more dangerous of the two sides in the closing minutes of the first period. Minerva’s Amandeep Singh hit the post from range before the Chandigarh-based team’s Trinidadian recruit Robert Primus hit the side netting from inside the box in the dying minutes. The first 45 minutes concluded with the score deadlocked at 0-0.
Both teams tussled for the all-important first goal of the match after the restart and it was Minerva who drew first blood. Following a quick breakaway, Samuel Lalmuanpuia latched onto a pass by Akash Sangwan and fired in his shot from outside the box past Chennaiyin goalkeeper Karanjit Singh.
With the lead in their kitty, Minerva players opted to take a more measured approach to make things difficult for Chennaiyin. John Gregory responded by bringing on Thoi Singh in place of Isaac, hoping the winger’s pace could be the key to unlock Minerva’s defence.
With time running out, Chennaiyin clawed into the contest just at the nick of time. Substitute Mohammed Rafi chested down Anirudh Thapa’s cross from the left flank and slotted the ball in on the 90th minute to make the score 1-1. Both teams went all out for a late winner but the match ended with the sides sharing the points.
Source: Hero Indian Super League