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Minerva look to rekindle title hopes against Lajong

Press Trust of India  |  Shillong 

Reigning champions Minerva Punjab FC are on the road for three weeks and their opponents Shillong Lajong are back home after a similar length of time, making up for an intriguing I-League clash here on Friday.

For the champions to have any chance of a renewed bid to defend the title they won last season, they will have to win and they have to find a way to get one of their forwards to score.

The only two goals that they have scored in the four games so far have come from central defender Lancine Toure and they haven't scored in three out of those four games.

The fact that a win can still resurrect hopes of a title defence could be credited to a gritty back four and the compactness that they are known for in recent years.

Shillong might be further away from title aspirations with four losses on the trot in five games, however, they have provided enough evidence that they are a dangerous side and do not buckle down from playing attacking football.

They are a young and talented unit and will be back at home, where they had so impressed in their opener against Aizawl last month. Adaptability to the artificial turf at the JLN will also favour the Shillong youngsters more.

Coach Alison Kharsyntiew reflected the buoyant mood in the Shillong camp on the match eve.

"I am happy with the boys' performances. It's just the mistakes here and there including some silly mistakes. Tomorrow will be a different game," he said.

Minerva will also be wary of the fact that the one problem Shillong don't have is scoring goals. Youngsters like Sheen, Rakesh Pradhan, Mahesh Singh, Samuel Lyngdoh, ably marshalled by captain Lalmuanpuia have shown creativity to be one of the top scoring sides of the league with six goals to their credit.

Also, some of the best and well-constructed goals of the league have come from Shillong.

So Minerva will always have to be conscious of pushing too far ahead to score and Lajong will have to be far more tighter in their defensive play, having conceded 12 goals in the campaign so far.

Irish coach Paul Munster had this to share a day before the game, "We have come up with a completely new team and we know that we have to start from scratch. Obviously, it's not good enough. Now, we have to win each game.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, November 22 2018. 20:30 IST