GOA, MAY 29 : So near yet so far was Minerva Academy FC’s tale as they went down 3-1 to the Goan giants, Dempo SC at the Fatorda Stadium here on Sunday. Thus Minerva finished runners up in their debut season.
In the match today, Dempo SC came all-guns blazing in the first half as Milagres Gonsalves scored a brace in between Felix Chidi’s strike to ensure that Dempo SC hit the promotion jackpot. Amandeep Singh pulled one back for the Minervans but it was too late by then to stage a comeback.
Minerva went into the match with as many as eleven homegrown players, with Bala Alhassan being the only foreign recruit in the reserve bench. Dempo SC meanwhile started the game with two foreign players, Chidi and Chika Wali along with the exhilarating duo of Mandar and Romeo on the wings.
Both teams started the match cautiously, but Dempo SC were quick to settle the nerves and snatch an early lead thanks to a fine strike from Milagres Gonsalves in the ninth minute. Before the Minervans could settle after their skittish start, Felix Chidi netted another goal in the 13th minute.
Even after taking a 2 goal lead, Dempo refused to take their foot off the pedal as they dominated proceedings with some good passing football. In the 31st minute Milagres Gonsalves put the final nail on Minerva’s coffin when he scored his second goal of the evening.
The Pride of Punjab tried to make a miraculous comeback through a combined effort from Akashdeep and Kamalpreet, but was denied by the Dempo custodian Kattimani. Dempo almost snatched another goal in the dying moments of the first half when Mandar Desai dangerously cut in from the left wing but his grounded effort missed the goal by a whisker.
Teams went into the break with the scoreline reading 3-0 in favour of Dempo. The Pride of Punjab needed something similar to the Istanbul Miracle if they had to qualify for the I-League.
The pace of the game mellowed down after the interval as the home side were happy to defend their lead while Minerva got into their best attacking mode. Chances after chances were created but the Dempo side, which comprises almost the full FC Goa Indian players, were able to see off the Minervans attack.
Coach Surinder Singh made three substitutions in the second half as Minerva increased the pressure. It bore fruit in the 86th minute when Amandeep Singh pulled a goal back for the away side. But it was too little too late to stage a comeback.
With the help of this victory, the five time League Champions of India, Dempo SC secured their I-League berth for the 2016-17 season.