By Rajarshi Chakrabarty
The end to end battle of the I-League Champions Minerva Punjab FC and Jamshedpur FC was eventually decided on penalties as both sides failed to find the back of the net during the 120-minutes at Kalinga Stadium on Monday.
The battle was evenly poised between the two teams as Minerva’s potent attack led by Bhutanese goal machine Chencho Gyaltsen paired with William Opoku faced off with Jamshedpur FC’s solid centre-back duo of Indian International Anas and Brazilian Trindade Goncalves.
The match had everything a fan could hope for as two teams with distinct tactical game plan went into the game to seek an edge. Both sides came close to opening the scoring, the first real chance fell to Bikash Jairu whose left-footed curler found the bar.
As Chencho threatened the Jamshedpur FC defence time and again but lack of quality in finishing within the 18 yards box kept the game on a tender hook.Girik Khosla found himself in an advantageous position from Akash Sangwan’s through ball as Jamshedpur FC were playing a high defensive line, but Girik failed to beat an advancing Sanjiban from the one-on-one position.
Back in the second half, the forward trio of Chencho-Opoku and Sangwan created fault lines in the Jamshedpur’s defence as Opoku found himself in front of an open goal from a loose ball deflected by Sanjiban’s save off Sangwan’s freekick, but Opoku headed it wide.
As the game progressed into the final quarter, Minerva looked more ominous but they kept wasting galore of opportunities as Sanjiban’s heroics kept the Minerva wave at bay.
Locked at 0-0 at the end of ninety minutes, the match eventually rolled into the extra time as both teams opted for a cautious approach and made sure not to concede any late goals in the knock-out encounter. The cagey and tight approach from both teams ensured none of the teams could steal a late goal as the match went into penalties.
In the penalty shoot-out, it was locked at 3-3 as Sanjiban’s heroics proved to be the difference saving Bali Gagandeep’s shot in “sudden-death” after Mehtab Hussain scored for Jamshedpur, to send Jamshedpur FC into the quarterfinals.