KATHMANDU, May 15: As Manang Marshyangdi Club hosts I-League champion Minerva Punjab in the fourth Group E match on Wednesday, it will be hoping to get its first win of the AFC Cup.
Having drawn its last game against Punjab in Odisha, Manang will be looking to go above the Indian champion with a win and stay on track for qualification to the inter-zone playoff semifinals.
The league winner started the tournament poorly after suffering a 1-0 home loss to Bangladeshi club Abahani Dhaka, who has not been able to win any other game, having drawn one and lost another excluding the Manang win.
The win will send Manang into the third place, and will help the team stay in closing distance with Abahani with two games to spare, if it loses against Chennaiyin FC later on the same day.
Manang head coach Tshering Lopsang said that the team will play with a new tactics to get the first win of the tournament by rectifying the mistakes it committed in the first three games.
“We gave our 100 percent in the earlier league games, but we lost twice failing to convert the chances we created,” Lopsang said, “We will correct those mistakes and weaknesses and will field the team with a new tactics on Wednesday. We are targeting the first win of the tournament by taking advantage of the home crowd.”
“We will enter into the match to get a win. We have set a different tactics which helps us correct our mistakes. That tactics will help us win,” Lopsang said, “We have given our 100 percent, and the matches against foreign teams have given us a lesson. Football is a game of luck as well. If we get the support of the home crowd, I am confident we can win.”
Manang captain Biraj Maharjan made similar remarks, as the team was looking to get the three points taking advantage of the home crowd. However, he complained about the weaknesses of the team to not convert the chances.
“We played the earlier games with determination and worked hard, but could not get a win. We were unable to utilize the chances,” Maharjan added. “We got behind in all the games because of our weakness, but we will get three points on Wednesday.”
Adding that the team still has three games left including this one, skipper Maharjan said: “All the upcoming three games are important to us. We have a chance to get to the next round if we get good results. We are hopeful of doing just that, and all the players are excited for the match.”
Meanwhile, Minerva is in a different state of affairs as no team has been able to defeat it, and it has not been able to defeat any team as well.
Minerva head coach Sachin Badadhe, who saw his team playing draws in all the games it played, said the team will be looking for a win against Manang by correcting the mistakes of the earlier games.
“All the players are perfectly fine for the match and we are ready for it. We will field the team to win the match and the players have garnered experience in foreign soil,” Badadhe said. “I-League and AFC Cup are completely different tournaments, and we have become very competitive by playing in the AFC Cup, which is of higher standard than the domestic league.”
Minerva captain Omolaja Nurain Karim said that the game will be competitive as the league champions of India and Nepal will both fight for the win.
“Manang is a strong team, and it played very well against us in the last game. Manang is the league champion of Nepal and we are the league champion of India. The game will be competitive,” Karim said.
After the end of three group stage rounds, 2017-18 ISL champion Chennaiyin has accumulated seven points with two wins and a draw, while Abahani has four points with a win, a draw and a loss.
Minerva is third with three points coming from three draws, while Nepal is at the foot of the table with one point from a draw and two losses.
The match will be played at the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) Complex in Satdobato, Lalitpur.