I-League Media Team
GOA: Minerva Academy FC of Chandigarh,Punjab will take on Royal Wahingdoh in the final of the Nike Premier Cup 2016 after overpowering a 10-man Mohammedan Sporting Club by 2-0 in the second semifinal at the Nagoa panchayat ground today. Goals from Moirangthem Givson Singh and Thounaojam Jeakson Singh ensured a safe passage into the final while Mohammedan played nearly forty minutes with ten men after Debraj Rakshit was sent off.
It was a cagey start as Minerva AFC were the attacking side and Mohammedan Sporting were engaged in keeping their opponents at bay. After a slow start, the first shot on target came in the 22nd minute when Minerva AFC winger Prasan Chhetri took a first-time shot that was saved at the near post by Mohammedan goalkeeper Aftab Alam.
Mohammedan also became braver going forward and Rahul Sarkar tried to dink a cross into the box which almost wrong footed the keeper and crept into the goal but ended up on top of the net.
The best chance of the first half fell to Shubham Sarangi who struck the post with a powerful strike in the 35th minute and tested the Black Panthers keeper Aftab with a close-range header.
The rest of the half was played at frantic pace and the first yellow of the game was picked up by Taranpreet Singh for a barge on Raja Mondal. Not long after, Taranpreet’s teammate Thoiba Singh went into the referee’s book for a sliding tackle on Mohammedan skipper Kaushik Saha.
As the half was drawing to a close, Mohammedan SC picked up their first yellow when Debraj Rakshit pulled down Thoiba. The half ended 0-0 as both teams struggled to find a breakthrough.
Minerva AFC came off the blocks in the second half and almost scored when Shubham toe-poked the ball just inches wide and injured himself in the process.
However, the turning point of the match came in the 51st minute when Debraj picked up his second yellow for a challenge on Givson Singh to get his marching order.
Minerva AFC capitalised on the one-man advantage and struck within a few minutes. Chettri slid a pass to Givson who took a touch before half-volleying the ball from 25 yards out. Goalkeeper Aftab was left stranded as the ball whizzed into the top corner.
Mohammedan SC struggled after going a man down and a goal down and Minerva AFC started dominating, eventually doubled their lead in the 81st minute. Minerva won a free-kick near the edge of the box and Thounaojam Jeakson Singh smashed a piledriver that struck the crossbar and landed in the back of the net to cap off a comfortable victory.
Following this victory, Minerva AFC, who were being touted as the favourites by Royal Wahingdoh FC, will take on the highlanders in the final of the maiden edition of Nike Premier Cup to clinch the coveted trophy.