4/4/2019 6:38:49 PM (GMT+3)

AFC Cup: Chennaiyin FC, Minverva meet in group-stage opener

AFC Cup: Chennaiyin FC, Minverva meet in group-stage opener

AHMEDABAD, India: Two-time Indian Super League champions Chennaiyin FC are set to begin their maiden AFC Cup group stage journey against Minerva Punjab on Wednesday here.

Chennaiyin became the first ISL outfit to enter the AFC Cup group stage after overcoming Sri Lanka’s Colombo FC in the South Zone qualifying playoff by a 1-0 aggregate scoreline last month.

“We have been training hard and improved a lot in the last few weeks. As a group, we have focused on attacking and defending as a team and that has really helped us,” said winger Thoi Singh.

Jeje Lalpekhlua scored the winner for CFC in the 2nd leg here after the goalless first leg. The Mizo striker, who is the senior-most player in the CFC squad, has two goals in his last two appearances, having also netted in the club’s 2-0 Super Cup round-of-16 win over Mumbai City FC last week in Bhubaneswar.

CFC are also boosted by the much-anticipated return of defensive midfielder Dhanpal Ganesh from a long-term knee injury along with Jerry Lalrinzuala who was also out of action. Ganesh got some valuable game time in the win over Mumbai City, having come off the bench in the second half.

Ganesh and Jerry are integral additions to defensive setup that has kept three clean sheets in their last three games in all competitions. The backline will be motivated to add to that tally when they take on Minerva.

Meanwhile, the match will be also Minerva’s maiden group stage campaign. The 2017-18 I-League champions have recently made loan signings of midfielder Samuel Lalmuanpuia from Shillong Lajong FC and Nigerian defender Kareem Nurain from Aizawl FC. The Punjab club has also brought in Trinidad & Tobago defender Robert Primus.