The battle for the 12th Hero I-League title winner just got interesting as Minerva Punjab FC suffered a 0-1 loss against Kolkata Giants Quess East Bengal at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium at Panchkula on Sunday.
With this win, Quess East Bengal are just a point shy of table toppers Chennai City FC, who along with the Red and Golds, would play their last league game on March 9, 2019. Enrique Esqueda scored the winning goal for Quess East Bengal in the 75th minute.
While Quess East Bengal now travel to Kozhikhode to play Gokulam Kerala FC on the ninth, Chennai City FC will host defending champions Minerva Punjab for their game on the same day. Both these games are slated for a 5 pm kick-off.
Arashpreet Singh found his way back in goal, while Sreyas VG and Moinuddin Khan found themselves in the playing XI in place of Makan Chothe and Prabhjot Singh respectively. Quess East Bengal, on the other hand, made two changes in the form of Salam Ranjan Singh and Toni Dovale, who found their way back in the starting XI in place of a suspended Borja Gomez and Brandon Vanlalremdika, respectively.
The defending champions started the game on a pressing note and enjoyed a good spell of possession in the first few minutes, but Quess East Bengal did not allow the hosts an inch in midfield. The game was mostly played in the middle of the park in the first quarter.
Quess East Bengal, with their urgency for a win, did try pressing high but full marks to the organised defence of Minerva, who ensured that the visitors do not get an opportunity to draw first blood. The Warriors, on the contrary, started pressing high in phases, but could not create any threatening moments.
Esqueda, Santos and Ralte combined well to come close to scoring twice, but some great keeping by Arshdeep and the woodwork played a critical role in ensuring that the first 45 minutes of the game remained goalless.
The second half began with Quess East Bengal taking the initiative to go into the lead, but they couldn’t breach the Minerva defence on most occasions. Minerva, on the other hand, kept attacking in short bursts through the combination of Juan Quero and Sreyas VG, but failed to find an opportunity to take the lead.
QEB, however, came really close to scoring on a couple of occasions but some exceptional goalkeeping by Minerva’s Arashdeep ensured that the visitors did not get the elusive goal. Minerva, who were playing a very organised game, somehow gave way to the visitors, when a wrong clearance saw Enrique Esqueda made no mistake in grabbing the opportunity and find the back of the net in the 75th minute.
The game, thereafter, saw both the teams playing on an attacking note, with the former champions aiming for an equaliser, while Quess East Bengal hoped for an insurance goal. The game finally came to an end with Minerva Punjab FC losing 0-1 to Quess East Bengal.