MMC, Minerva eye first victory

- PRAJWAL OLI, Kathmandu

May 15, 2019-

Home team Manang Marshyangdi Club and Minerva Punjab both look to secure first win when they clash in the AFC Cup match at the ANFA Complex in Satdobato on Wednesday.

The Martyrs Memorial ‘A’ Division League champions MMC lie bottom of the four-team Group ‘E’ with just one point after losing two and drawing one game so far. The I-League champions Minerva are in third with three points as they drew all three matches coming into the fourth match of Asia’s second-tier club competition. Another Indian team Chennaiyin FC, the Indian Super League champions, stay atop the group with seven points while Abahani Limited of Bangladesh are in second place with four points. Played under home and away format, only the group winners will progress to the next round of the tournament.

But despite languishing at the bottom with victory, coaches of both the teams still see possibility of making it to the next round provided they win on Wednesday. “We still have a chance of qualifying for the next stage but we have to start afresh with victory over Minerva on Wednesday,” said MMC coach Chhiring Lopsang Gurung on Tuesday. “Our slim qualification chances depend on victory tomorrow,” said Gurung whose team settled for a 2-2 draw in their away match against the opponents on May 1. MMC lost 1-0 to Abahani in their first match on home soil before suffering a 2-0 away defeat to Chennaiyin.

Lopsang Gurung said his team will be on the offence from start on Wednesday. “We were able to create great number of scoring chances in previous matches but finishing let us down. We have worked really hard to address the weakness in the last two weeks and hopefully it will pay off,” said the MMC coach. Gurung also said his team has worked on strengthening the defence, another weakness that allowed the team to conceded needless goals in the last two games. MMC had not only squandered a penalty shot but also conceded late goals in their last outings.

MMC skipper Biraj Maharjan said: “We will play for three points as the remaining matches are vital to determine our fate.” Maharjan said his team is not taking any pressure despite sitting bottom of the table.

Minerva coach Sachin Badadhe also believed in his team’s chances of qualifying for the next round starting with the MMC win. “We will play for three points and we cannot afford to lose the match as the race is open for all three teams,” Badadhe said. He also said his team would not repeat mistakes they committed in the last outing against MMC. He also expressed concerns over playing at artificial turf. Minerva’s Nigerian captain Kareem Omolaja Nurain said: “Both MMC and Minerva are champions of their respective countries. Any result is possible but we have eyes on three points.”

MMC are likely to retain the same starting XI that played in the last outing against Minerva with Nigerian duo Adelaja Somide and Olawale Afeez spearheading the attacks. Skipper Maharjan, Devendra Tamang, Saheed Azeez and Kamal Shrestha will be deployed as defenders. Anjan Bista, Avishek Bista, Bishal Rai and Sujal Shrestha will be favourite to hold the midfield. In another match of the same group, Abahani Limited will hosts Chennaiyn at the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka.

Published: 15-05-2019 08:24

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