Welcome to another edition of the Indian football news roundup. Today, we will talk about Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj’s decision to shut down his club, and Balwant Singh’s hat-trick powering ATK to a win over Delhi Dynamos in the Super Cup.
In case you missed out on the previous edition of the Indian football news roundup, you can check it out here.
Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj to shut down his club
Minerva Punjab owner Ranjit Bajaj made a shocking revelation on Saturday through his Twitter account when he announced that his club would be shutting down his shop. In case you don’t know, the self-proclaimed “rebellious one” has been fighting with the AIFF and FSDL over their step-motherly treatment to the I-League clubs.
As per the sources, the highest governing body of football in India and their commercial partners plan to make the ISL the top division in the country, forcing the I-League teams to play in the Second Division with no incentives of promotion.
While certain changes midway in the season like FSDL pulling out Star Sports from broadcasting around 50 I-League matches infuriated Bajaj, the final straw which broke the camel’s back was that of Odisha Football Association denying Minerva Punjab to host their AFC Cup matches at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
According to Ranjit Bajaj, the AIFF and FSDL directed them to revamp the Kalinga Stadium as soon as the Super Cup got over. This has to be done to make the stadium in accordance with the FIFA guidelines as the AIFF intends to host Bhubaneswar as one of the venues for next year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
A change in venue would invite a hefty fine from the AFC and would put a jolt on Minerva Bajaj’s financial prospects immensely. Ranjit Bajaj believed that shutting down his club would be the best suitable option for him rather than continuing his fight against the AIFF.
Super Cup 2019: Balwant Singh’s hat-trick powers ATK to the semi-finals
ATK continued their fine form in the Super Cup 2019 as Balwant Singh’s hat-trick powered them to a 4-3 victory over Delhi Dynamos at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. This resulted in them being the first ISL club to reach the ISL semi-finals after Chennai City FC ousted Bengaluru FC from the competition.
Both the teams took little time to settle down and fired all their cylinders from the opening whistle itself. The first goal came in the 15th minute when Adria Carmona delivered a pinpoint free-kick for Mohammed Sajid Dhot from just outside the penalty box to nod it in.
However, Delhi Dynamos’ joy lasted only eight minutes as ATK got their equalizer soon. Manuel Lanzarote spotted Balwant Singh’s run and after the Indian international broke the offside trap, he squared it past the goalkeeper to level the terms.
Delhi Dynamos’ misery only piled up from then as Manuel Lanzarote and Balwant Singh struck in quick succession after Jayesh Rane assisted them. Daniel Lalhimpuia pulled one back for the Lions moments before the referee blew the half-time whistle but they couldn’t carry forward their momentum.
Jayesh Rane was again in the thick of action, this time with a cross from just inside the six-yard box. Balwant Singh slid in at the last moment to restore ATK’s two-goal cushion. Just when it seemed the game had been over, Nandakumar Sekar reduced the margin after his shot from outside the box took a wicked deflection from Andre Bikey to wrong-foot the goalkeeper and roll it across the goal-line.
Steve Coppell made a flurry of changes and changed the shape of his defensive unit to keep the scoreline intact. It ended 4-3 in ATK’s favor, who will now face Chennaiyin FC or Northeast United FC on 10th April in the second leg of the semi-final.