I-League 2017/18: "East Bengal were lucky to win," claims Minerva Punjab coach Khogen Singh
I-League leaders Minerva Punjab FC suffered their first home defeat of the season as East Bengal ran out 1-0 winners at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium on Tuesday. The Punjab side, who would have all but secured the title with a win against the Red and Golds, came up with a rather meek performance, especially in the first half, and were put to the sword via a Cavin Lobo strike in the 60th minute.
Despite playing at home, the league leaders were set up for a draw and invited East Bengal to come at them from the opening whistle. "We wanted to guard our goalpost today," stated Minerva coach Khogen Singh in the post-match interaction.
He added, "It was a tough game. East Bengal are a very tough team to face but they had luck on their side today."
After conceding, Minerva piled on the pressure in the last 15 minutes of the match and should have equalized when William Opoku missed a golden opportunity with a free header from Bhutanese star Chencho Gyeltshen's delightful cross from the left side.
"Both teams had their chances," claimed Singh. "However, we were unable to take them while East Bengal were able to convert."
Gagandeep Bali, who scored a brace in Minerva's previous victory against Shillong Lajong FC, was removed from his striker's role and deployed as a left-back in the first half. In the second, the home side resumed with a five-man defence as they allowed East Bengal to play the ball around and create chances.
"Bali is a utility player," said Singh, explaining his decision to play the Punjab man in defence. "Our usual left-back Abhishek (Ambekar) likes to bomb forward and leaves space behind him, which could have been exploited by East Bengal," he said, before adding that Bali was a more conservative choice in defence.
The home side continue to remain at the top of the league standings, despite the loss and will play three of their remaining four games at home. "Now, our focus is on the next match. We need the points now if we are to stay at the top of the table," said Singh signing off.