Minerva Punjab are I-League champions


William Asiedu Opoku's goal was enough to seal the title for Minerva Punjab, who beat Churchill Brothers by a solitary goal. In the process, they created history by becoming the first team from North India to win the Hero I-League.

Despite leading at half-time, Minerva knew that any lapses in concentration in the second half would allow NEROCA, who were leading 1-0 against East Bengal, to leapfrog them into pole position. If three teams finish on 33 points, then Mohun Bagan will be crowned champions.

Asier Pierrick Dipanda of Cameroon finished top scorer of the league with his 12 goals for Mohun Bagan, including one on the final day.

Churchill Brothers, on the other hand, got relegated as this defeat demotes them to second division.

The Chandigarh team, which finished ninth (out of ten teams) last season, finished with 35 points from their 18 matches in only their second season in the top flight.

"This match here will be the toughest out of the three".

After winning the second division previous year, Neroca (31 points) added to the aura of the underdog.

Chencho Gyeltshen, he of the "Bhutanese Cristiano Ronaldo" fame, has been the top-scorer for Khogen Singh's men in their campaign with seven goals in the 18 matches. Chencho nearly scored the match's opener in 8th minute when a low Girik Khosla cross wasn't dealt with properly by Monday which gave Chencho a chance but he couldn't make full use of it. Minutes later Akash Sangwan had an opportunity to score from left but his shot went straight into the keeper who blocked well.

Churchill, who had to win to stay in the league, started attacking more in the second half but they were let down by some poor finishing.

Minerva should have doubled their lead in 64th minute when Kassim played one two with Chencho but Chencho's following cross towards Akash Sangwan, who was unmarked, went out for a goal kick.

This is a landmark moment in Indian football where two relegation threatened teams have won back to back I-League titles.

Their wait for the national league crown also extended to a whopping 14 years as their last title triumph came in the 2003-04 season when the tournament was still called the NFL.

Panchukula: It was heartbreak once more Thursday for Kolkata giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan as they were pipped to the I-League title post by Minerva Punjab.

A few weeks ago, Minerva Punjab FC were comfortably occupying the top of the league table but now all the top four teams on the table have a genuine shot at clinching the trophy.

In the game at Kolkata, hosts EB fell behind Felix Chidi (42nd) scored for Neroca.

At the other end, Syrian midfielder Mahmoud Al Amnah found the side-netting after Yusa Katsumi set him up from a short free-kick.

"After they beat us, they beat East Bengal and Minerva".

Not just Bindra, Bhattacharjee has also worked with cricketers Manan Vohra and Siddharth Kaul in the past, and now, after playing a hand in Minerva's title win, he believes that it is important for football teams to have regular mental training sessions. The Kolkata giants equalised through Dudu Omagbemi (73rd). All had to win their games and hope that Minerva lose theirs.

The Gokulam defence finally cracked under the relentless pressure when Arijit Bagui raced down the right wing to find Watson inside the penalty area.

Churchill defender Visalie Mezhu failed to clear a long ball and Khosla made a fine run behind the defenders.

"If you play or coach at a club like Mohun Bagan, there will be pressure".

Mohun Bagan continued with their attacking approach in the second half with Gokulam content to defend and hit back occasionally on the counter.