It has not been an ideal start to the 12th I-League for defending champions Minerva Punjab FC, having won just one game in five to be placed eighth on the table. However, come Saturday, December 1, they will look to get back to winning ways against the young Indian Arrows side. The game kicks off at 2pm IST at the Tau Devi Lal stadium in Panchkula and what would enthuse the champions, even more, would be the fact that they would be playing at home after exactly a month.
The “Warriors” from Punjab have won both the encounters between the two sides so far and that would give new coach for the season, Irishman Paul Munster, a sense of ease. Indian Arrows coach Floyd Pinto, on the other hand, would be aware that his young side albeit have looked the part but would need to deliver results sooner rather than later if they want to finish anywhere near the top of the league table.
Munster would be happy with the fact that Ghanaian striker William Opoku, a key player for his side having scored five times for Minerva Punjab FC last season, finally opened his scoring account in the last game against Shillong Lajong FC. He would also be happy with the form of Nigerian midfielder Philip Njoku who has been playing with a lot of purpose and penetration in the last two games, as well as the fact that his team while playing the entire second half against Shillong Lajong FC with 10 men, never looked like doing so.
“We are happy to come back home. We have taken the positives from our last game. Our first half was really tough, but even after going down to 10 men, our boys recovered and scored. In my opinion, it’s a very big result, but now, it’s a must-win game for us tomorrow at home,” said Paul Munster, Head Coach, Minerva Punjab FC ahead of the game tomorrow.
“We are creating lots of chances. It’s just the strikers who should believe in themselves and converting those chances. We just have to work harder,” he added.
Minerva Punjab FC would want to have a re-look at their defensive tactics though, as besides conceding five goals, way too many for their style of play generally, they have been caught out on the break too many times.
For Floyd Pinto’s young guns it seems to be getting more difficult with every game. Against Real Kashmir FC, in the last game, they were outdone simply by the size of some of their opponents which included the 6ft 7 inches Krizo and similar bigger adversaries like Mason Robertson and Loveday Okechukwu.
It’s not that they have not been moving the ball well or have shown an intention to score, but at times the gulf in professional experience becomes too much to overcome. Also, being a developmental side, it is prone to too many changes and experiments and they never seem to be having a settled eleven or players in set positions.
“It’s always motivational to play against the defending champions. The boys are motivated and we are looking forward to a great game of football. You also need to understand that every season is different. We have changed our style a bit. We were dominating the possession against Real Kashmir and although we didn’t get a win there, I’m happy with the game,” said Indian Arrows head coach Floyd Pinto.
He further said, “We go to every game to win. The results don’t always reflect the game. They have shown their character in the last match. They have the agility, the zeal and we have to cautious throughout.”
Given the firepower Minerva Punjab FC have at their disposal, they look odds-n favourites for this one. Indian Arrows, on the other hand, will be looking for the kind of upset, which they pulled off three times last season against fancied teams as well as the stunning win they scored against a talented Shillong side earlier in the league this season.