Anjan Bista (14) of Manang Marshyangdi Club passes the ball during an AFC Cup Group E football match against Minerva Punjab at the Kalinga Stadium in Odisha, India on Wednesday. AFC Cup/Twitter
KATHMANDU, May 2: A late goal from Nigerian forward Oluwawunmi Somide Adelaja helped Martyr’s Memorial A-Division League champion Manang Marshyangdi Club salvage a 2-2 draw against I-League champion Minerva Punjab as the team registered its first point in the AFC Cup in Odisha on Wednesday.
In the third Group E match at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, the game saw teams attacking constantly with both the teams having moments of brilliance. The game saw most of the attacks being built from the flanks, and Manang converted some of its chances from the right side of attack with crosses inside the box with the tactics favoring set pieces.
Manang was on the back foot inside the first 10 minutes of the match as Shreyas Valiyavettu V Gopalan scored for the home side. Akashdeep Singh put a good curving air ball inside the box which was played inside the box diagonally. The Manang defense tried to clear the ball, but it hit Gopalan in the eighth minute for an early lead.
Manang was quickly on attacking priorities after conceding the goal and got some chances, but could not convert them.
Target man Afeez Olawale Oladipo got a real chance to make a goal for Manang in the 45th minute as he got a ball inside the box, cut the ball inside to make room for himself which unbalanced the defender. He put a short ball in for Somide, but he could not get a touch to guide the ball into the post.
Manang got other chances before the half time whistle was blown as Anjan Bista put a cross inside the box, but Minerva goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh made a flying save to deny a header in the last minute of the first half injury time.
Manang kept on going forward in the second half with good attacking performance, something that was lacking in its 2-0 away loss to Chennaiyin Football Club in its second group stage match.
Abhishek Rijal equalized for Manang in the 69th minute of the match. Manang would have scored in the 35th minute from the penalty spot, but Sujal Shrestha’s shot in the right corner was saved brilliantly by Minerva goalkeeper Arshdeep.
The penalty was awarded to Manang after substitute Arashpreet Singh, who came in the 32nd minute, fouled Olawale inside the box.
Manang looked confident after scoring the equalizer and looked adventurous in attacks with runs from the channels and quick crosses from the flanks.
Shrestha acted as an anchor man having finally gotten to play from its natural central midfield position instead of the left flank. He even drifted to the flanks to free wingers inside the box, but a conservative performance from Olawale saw problems mounting in for wingers Bista and Rijal.
But, despite a good attacking approach, Manang went down again as captain Biraj Maharjan’s immature pull of another substitute Moinuddin saw the team concede a needless penalty. Omolaja Nurain Kareem coolly slotted the ball in the corner giving Manang keeper Bishal Shrestha no chance at all to even get a finger to the ball.
But, Manang was not disheartened by that and quickly got his attacking mode on as Devendra Shrestha got a good cross inside the box. Unmarked Somide guided his header from a point blank range in the 90th minute and drew the game for Manang.
With the result, Manang has accumulated its first point and is at the bottom of the group, while Minerva is third with three points. Likewise, Chennaiyin is at the top with seven points courtesy of a 1-0 win over Abahani Dhaka a day ago. Abahani is second with four points.