- Minerva Punjab defeated Churchill Brothers 1-0 on the final day of 2017/18 I-League clash and became the I-League champions for the first time in Indian football history
- Churchill Brothers’s loss resulted in their relegation to I-League’s second division
Minerva Punjab FC bagged the three points at the most crucial stage in the final clash of the I-League and created history, defeating Churchill Brothers 1-0 to lift the 2017/18 I-League title in a magnificent fashion, at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Gurgaon on Thursday (8 March).
William Opoku steers Minerva Punjab to grab their first ever I-League title
Minerva Punjab needed a victory to guarantee themselves the top-place finish in the I-League, and William Opoku‘s well-timed first half-strike was enough for the Minerva side to finish the tournament as 2017/18 I-League champions, in only their second outing in the top division of Indian football.
Prior to the last match-day of the 2017/18 I-League season, technically four teams were in contention for the I-League title. However, it was Minerva Punjab FC, who ultimately came out on top of their opponents and became the first team from the Northern region of the country, to lift the title in over two decades.
Minerva Punjab had stepped into the final day’s clash against Churchill Brothers, with 32 points in their bag from 17 matches. The Punjab side were closely followed by Neroca FC, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, and it was maddening to speculate which team could rise as the 2017/18 I-League champions. However, Minerva Punjab overpowered their way as the three teams fell short by some distance.
Churchill Brothers’ 1-0 loss to Minerva Punjab in the 2017/18 I-League final day clash also caused their relegation to the second division of the I-League.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) President, Mr. Praful Patel, congratulated Minerva Punjab FC and said, as reported by News 18,
“Congratulations Minerva Punjab Football Club on winning the I-League 2017-18 and gaining a spot in the ACL Qualifiers for the next season. The League has been a very competitive and exciting one and it was nice to see four teams having a chance to win it on the final day.”
Minerva Punjab FC’s official Twitter handle also shared the club’s magnificent victory.
— MINERVA PUNJAB FC (@Minerva_AFC) March 8, 2018
Minerva Punjab FC started off their first half by dominating Churchill Brothers throughout
Minerva Punjab started the first half on a positive note with the attacking trio of Chencho, William and Girik combining really well to put Churchill’s defence in jeopardy. After a couple great chances and unlucky misses by Chencho and Akash Sangwan, the moment finally came for Minerva Punjab FC in 16th minute, when William Opoku converted a goal from point blank range after a rebound from Girik’s shot fell right into his feet.
What is refreshing to note here, is the fact that while Minerva won the clash 1-0, the formidable team had earned plenty more goal-scoring chances in the 2nd half, especially when Kassim played a one-two with Chencho, and Chencho’s instant cross to an unmarked Sangwan went out for a goal kick in the 64th minute.
In another instance of excellent display of football, William Opoku had set up Chencho brilliantly in Churchill Brothers’ box in the 73rd minute, but the ball possession was lost as Chencho lost his balance. Minerva Punjab’s centre back, Eric Dano, had also gotten a sweet chance in the 80th minute, when he received a deflected corner kick and shot it wide off the target.
However, as the final whistle came, Minerva Punjab FC were crowned the Champions of 2017/18 I-League, recording a historic moment in Indian Football.
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