I-League 2018-19: Chennai City crowned champions after win over Minerva Punjab


Chennai City completed a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over Minerva Punjab to win the 2018-19 I-League title on the f inal matchday at the Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore on Saturday.

Roland Bilala (3') had handed Minerva Punjab a shock lead. But Pedro Manzi (56') scored from the spot to equalise before Gaurav Bora's brace (69' and 90+3') sealed the title for the Akbar Nawas-coached side.

Chennai City were handed a jolt just before kick-off when defender Roberto Eslava had to pull out from the starting eleven following a muscle sprain and was replaced by Tarif Akhand. Jozep Kaplan was named in place of a suspended Nestor Gordillo. 

On the other hand, Minerva Punjab made three alterations starting with Nidhin Lal replacing Arshdeep Singh in goal. Moinuddin Khan and Sreyas V.G. were also dropped to make way for Roland Bilala and Makan Chothe.

It was a bright start from Chennai City but Minerva drew first blood in the third minute through Roland Bilala. Juan Quero swung in an inch perfect ball from a set-piece which was headed home by the Ukranian. Eslava's absence became prominent as the entire defence was caught napping during the free-kick.

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Chennai did not have their usual fluidity in the attacking third and were mostly dependent on long balls and crosses from the flanks. In the absence of Nestor, Sandro had to drop deep to see more of the ball which led to a gap between Manzi and his midfielders.

Minerva defended deep inside their own half and Chennai managed to have only one shot on target in the first 45 minutes.

Chennai City came out all guns blazing in the second half in search of their equaliser. Vanspaul was denied by the woodwork in the 52nd minute but the hosts got their opener four minutes later when Manzi converted from the spot. Akashdeep Singh handled the ball inside the box and referee Santosh Kumar had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. 

The Southerners were a completely different side after the break and they changed gears after the equaliser. Around the hour mark , M anzi should have got his second but the Spaniard missed his header from point-blank range.

In the 69th minute, Gaurav Bora struck for his side after turning in a flag-kick floated by Sandro Rodriguez to give Chennai the lead.  The young defender was unmarked and he sent a first-time finish home.

Minerva were not willing to give up and Boerchio was forced to make a couple of good saves.

In injury time, Bora completed his brace in a similar fashion when he scored from another corner by Sandro, this time via his head.

With 43 points from 20 matches Chennai City were crowned the new champions of I-League while East Bengal finished at 42.



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