A 10-man Minerva Punjab were held to a 1-1 draw by Nepal’s Manang Marshyangdi Club in a Group E tie of the AFC Cup Kathmandu on Wednesday, a result which severely dents their chances of making it to the next round of the tournament.
Thoiba Singh gave Minerva the lead in the 40th minute but Manang defender Oluwashina Azeez equalised in the 81st minute to deny the former I-League champions a win at the ANFA Complex in Kathmandu.
Minerva, who were denied by the woodwork twice in the first half, had to play with 10 men in the second half after losing Prateek Joshi to a red card just before the half-time whistle.
This was Minerva’s fourth draw in as many matches and are still in search of their maiden win in an AFC Cup match.
With four points from in their kitty, Minerva need to win both their remaining group matches to stand a chance of advancing to the next round.
Manang, on the other hand, are virtually out of the reckoning with two points from four matches.
Only the top side from the four-team group will make it to the Inter-Zonal Play-off semi-finals.
Manang began the match by starving Minerva of possession but the Indian side carried a threat whenever they got on the ball.
Samuel Lalmuanpuia was particularly impressive on the flanks early on. His first attempt was thwarted by a diving tackle from Bishal Rai in the wider areas. In the eighth minute, he produced an impressive long-range effort that came off the bar.
Two minutes later, Thoiba produced a similar effort only to end up with the same result.
In the 28th minute, Samuel dodged past Kamal Shreshtha to create space for himself in the box but ended up depositing the shot into the arms of Manang goalkeeper Bishal Shrestha.
Thoiba, however, made the most of a slip-up by Shreshtha a couple of minutes later as he sent a cross from Hassan past the Manang goalkeeper to give Minerva the lead in the 40th minute.
Seconds before half-time, though, Minerva lost Joshi for a red card offense.
Up against a side with numerical disadvantage in the second half, the Nepalese club created more chances. Arshdeep Singh was kept busy in the early part of the half, especially by Anjan Bista.
The match, however, turned on its head when Manang equalised through Shaheed Azeez in the 81st minute. Azeez calmly headed a long ball home from inside a crowded box.
Minerva then had a goal denied minutes before the final whistle which ensured their streak of draws in the tournament continued.
Minerva will next be seen in action against Chennaiyin FC on June 19 in Guwahati while Manang will play Dhaka Abahani.