Minerva Academy Football Club travelled to Phagwara to play their fourth and final game in the Punjab Super League Second Division against JCT Academy.
Desperate to put the 1-1 draw against Harbhajan SA behind, head coach Yan Law named a strong starting eleven, as Anwar Ali was named captain of the Warriors once again.
Right from the off, Minerva Academy looked like they were in a hurry to get back to winning ways, and it didn’t take long for them to get on the scoresheet. Having kept the ball patiently, Subham Chetry raced forward from the left, delivered a low cross, and a tidy finish from Lalranchinna into keeper’s right from close range was enough to put the visitors ahead in the 7th minute.
JCT Academy then had a good chance in the 10th minute, as Suraj Mallick was forced into making a decent save. At the other end, Minerva Academy showed no signs of slowing down. The electric wingman Nikhil Mali made progress again from the left, and his perfect cross was met by the frontman Shreyas V.G to steal a 2-0 lead on the quarter hour mark.
Minerva Academy were dominating proceedings, but a glimmer of hope emerged for JCT Academy as Suprodeep Hazra, who had already been booked, was penalized for another foul and the referee flashed a second yellow card in the 35th minute. Minerva Academy were down to ten men.
At half-time, it was 2-0 to the visitors but staring them in the face was an entire half to play with a man down.
But once the second half started, Minerva Academy didn’t seem troubled despite being a player short, and then at the hour mark, equality was restored, as a JCT Academy player elbowed Shaiza and the referee pulled out a red card for the second time.
With ten against ten, it was always going to be an uphill task for JCT Academy to get back into the game and indeed resist Minerva Academy’s attacks. The home side finally succumbed to the pressure in the 75th minute, as Lalranchinna turned provider this time, sending the ball into the box for Nikhil Mali. The Pune boy took a gorgeous first touch and dispatched an unstoppable shot with his favourite left foot that went beyond the goalkeeper in a flash.
At 3-0, it was just about seeing out the rest of the game with a clean sheet for Minerva Academy, but that prospect was under attack as an error of judgement from Suraj Mallick opened up a terrific opportunity for JCT Academy to get on the scoresheet, but Adhiraj made a fantastic goal-line clearance and kept the clean sheet intact.
Late on, gaps were aplenty in the JCT Academy defence, and Nikhil Mali exploited that masterfully with a perfectly weighted through ball to Suraj Gurung – who had come on in place of Shreyas V.G – who slotted it past the goalkeeper and made it 4-0.
All in all, it was a comfortable afternoon for Minerva Academy Football Club, who qualify for the Punjab Super League in style – with an unbeaten run and 10 points in 4 games.