Minerva Academy FC kick started their historic debut Durand Cup campaign against fellow I-League 2nd Division competitors Himalyan Gangtok FC at Ambedkar Stadium, New Delhi yesterday. The match ended 2-0 in Gangtok Himalayan’s favour.

The game wasn’t in favour of the Minerva boys who’s average age was 23, an U15 player (Jackson Singh) too was part of starting IX of the young Minervan team.

Gangtok FC first had a taste for a goal in the opening few minutes of the game with foreigner Samuel Kane getting through Minervans Jarmanjit and Akashdeep only to be denied by keeper Arshdeep. Minerva then bounced back in the very next move with striker Victor Amobi missing a one-on-one with the Gangtok goalkeeper Loknath Roy. In the first half an attempt at goal by striker Girik Khosla missed the goal post by inches. The next couple of minutes were a busy time for Gangtok goalkeeper Loknath Roy as he had made a few important saves from Minerva AFC’s strikers Manandeep Singh and Girik Khosla. A dominant 1st half turned out to be a disappointing one when Minerva Defender Jarmanjit was shown a direct red for his tackle on Gangtok’s playmaker Samuel Kane which successfully rewarded his dive inside the box. Minerva’s never say die attitude reflected as they still fought hard with 10 men to break the deadlock, but all attempts were in vain leading to a score line of 0-0 in the first half.

Second Half saw Gangtok Himalayan trying to capitalise on Minerva being down to 10 men. Coach Surinder Singh introduced  India U19 international Moinuddin to replace Girik Khosla and bring in some fresh legs. Winger Akash Sangwan was sent back to fill in the gap created by departure of Jarmanjit. The make shift defence of Minerva managed to keep Gangtok strikers at bay until 65th minute when Akash Sangwan limped off the field with a cramp leaving only 9 Minervans on the field. This is when Bhaichung Bhutia of Gangtok headed in a corner kick to put Gangtok in the lead. Minervans were now rearing for goal and put immense pressure on the Gangtok back four. Substitute Moinuddin displayed fine form of skill by releasing striker Manandeep Singh for some good chances. One such volley landed perfectly for Manandeep just outside the box but the powerful shot just brushed past the bar. The Gangtok players now deployed time wasting tactics to slow the game down and keep the lead but the Minervans were relentless in trying to get one back. The final heartbreak came in the 80th minute when Gangtok Himalayan scored the second goal through Samuel Kane again from a corner kick.  Minervans tried to take on the herculean task , and the last 10 minutes of the game saw striker Victor Amobi replaced with Lago Bei of Ivory Coast to refurbish the Minervan attack, but in vain. The match ended with a final score of 2-0 in Gangtok Himalayan’s favour. The evening was a heartbreak to all Minervans as the team lost 3 crucial points to the lads from Gangtok to whom they have never lost before.

Minerva Academy FC next takes on Indian Navy in another important fixture on 1st September at 4.15pm in Harbaksh Football Stadium, Delhi.

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