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Minerva dent Chennaiyin’s knockout hopes

PTI

Guwahati

Mohammed Rafi struck a last-minute goal to snatch a 1-1 draw for Chennaiyin FC against Minerva Punjab in their penultimate group match of the AFC Cup here on Wednesday, but the result dented the team’s chances of qualifying for the knockout stage.

Samuel Lalmuanpuia gave ‘host’ Minerva the lead in the 62nd minute and the former I-League champion was on the verge of posting its maiden win in the AFC Cup, but Rafi shattered the Punjab side’s hopes by scoring the equaliser in the 90th minute. With Abahani Dhaka beating Manang Marshyangdi of Nepal 5-0 in another Group E match in the Bangladesh capital, Chennaiyin dropped to second with eight points from five matches. Abahani jumped to the top spot with 10 points from five matches while Minerva, which has drawn all its five matches, is out of the tournament.

If Chennaiyin has to qualify for the inter-zone playoff semifinals, it needs to beat Manang Marshyangdi in the final group match in Kathmandu on June 26 and hope that Minerva either draws or loses against Abahani on the same day here.

Only one team from the group will qualify for the inter-zone playoff semifinals and if Chennaiyin and Abahani finish on equal points, the ISL side will go through on better head-to-head record.

The match also saw Minerva goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh injuring his nose after a collision with Chennaiyin forward C.K. Vineeth.

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