Bangladesh’s Abahani Dhaka and I-League’s Minerva Punjab played out an entertaining 2-2 draw in their AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Cup 2019 fixture at Dhaka on Wednesday.
The I-League club was put under severe pressure by the Dhaka side who wasted some gilt-edged chances.
Mahmoud Al Amnah (16’) and Sreyas Gopalan (42’) were the goal-scorers for the Indian side on the night while Nabib Jibon (20’) and Sunday Chizoba (48’) were on target for the hosts.
Minerva Punjab made two changes to the playing XI which registered a goal-less stalemate against Chennaiyin FC with goalkeeper Bhaskar Roy and midfielder Harminder Singh being handed starts.
It was Minerva who started the match stronger of the two sides with Mahmoud Al Amnah and Souvik Das making long-range attempts at the Abahani Limited Dhaka goal in the early minutes.
After coming close, the visitors finally had their lead in the 16th minute with Makan Chote finding Al Amnah free in the box with a low cross following a flowing move.
The Syrian made no mistake from a few yards out to fire the visitors ahead but the hosts wasted no time in hitting back with Nabib Jibon grabbing the equaliser from close range just three minutes later with Kervens Belfort providing the assist.
Belfort continued to look dangerous as the half wore on with his direct running and sizzling chemistry with Nabib and Minerva custodian Bhaskar Roy was kept busy in preserving the scoreline.
With Dhaka continuing to make further inroads, Minerva were forced to take off Harminder Singh after 38 minutes itself with Sreyas Gopalan replacing the midfielder.
Just moments after coming on, Gopalan fired Minerva into the lead against the run of play after intercepting a dreadful back-pass from the Dhaka right-back.
It took just three minutes of the second period for the hosts to restore parity with a dangerous free-kick taken by Nabib striking the Minerva crossbar before Sunday Chizoba turning in the rebound from close range.
It was the hosts who continued to impose their dominance in the second half with Belfort once again proving tough to handle for the Minerva defence. At the other end, Sreyas Gopalan had a couple of chances on the break including a header which went inches wide of the goal agonisingly.
Abahani Dhaka will be disappointed to walk away with just the one point after creating several clear-cut chances but remain top of the group with four points from two games. Minerva, meanwhile, have two points after as many draws.