Nabib Newaj Jibon, Kervens Belfort, Jewel Rana, Sunday Chizoba and Mamunul Islam scored one each for the Sky Blues, who dominated the game thoroughly from the beginning, despite the hot weather, and allowed the opponent very little space
Abahani are only a step away from making it to the AFC Cup knockout stage for the first time ever as the turbo-charged Bangladesh Premier League champion handed Nepal champion Manang Marshyangdi Club a 5-0 thrashing at their home ground at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka Wednesday.
Nabib Newaj Jibon, Kervens Belfort, Jewel Rana, Sunday Chizoba and Mamunul Islam scored one each for the Sky Blues, who dominated the game thoroughly from the beginning, despite the hot weather, and allowed the opponent very little space.
Thanks to the win, Abahani have already achieved their best feat in the competition in recent years as they now top the Group E table with 10 points from five matches after overnight leader Chennaiyin FC were held to a 1-1 draw away at Minerva Punjub on the same day.
Abahani will travel to Guwahati next week to play their final group stage fixture against I-League champion Minerva, while Indian Super League champion Chennaiyin, who are two points behind Abahani, play away at Manang.
Any result except a win for Chennaiyin will see Abahani move through to the next round, regardless of their result against Minerva, but Abahani head coach Mario Lemos wants to finish the job on their own.
Lemos kept Sunday’s premier league squad (against Rahmatganj Muslim Friends Society) unchanged, but made one alteration from last AFC Cup’s 3-2 win over Chennaiyin with Tutul Hossain Badshah replacing Waly Faisal.
The defence remained solid Wednesday while the midfield and forward line also improved their performance from the previous matches.
It was Jibon who gave Abahani an early lead in the 11th minute, snatching a missed clearance of Nigerian defender Saheed Azeez from 20 yards before drifting inside the box to send the ball home past onrushing goalkeeper Bishal Sreshtha from the left side of the box.
The Sky Blues continued creating pressure on the opponent.
Sunday missed a couple of chances in the 43rd and 45th minutes, first, he couldn’t connect well a fine cross from Rayhan before falling with a weak shot after Belfort’s fine work set him up at the middle of the box.
Belfort doubled the lead with a brilliant solo effort in the first half extra time.
Collecting the ball from the edge of the circle on his own half, the Haitian forward made a solo run outpacing defenders Devendra Tamang and Suraj Bishwakarma to break into the box before chipping home over the onrushing keeper from the top.
After Belfort and Sunday squandered a chance each after the break, Jewel extended Abahani’s lead in the 63rd minute.
A fine Belfort back-heel allowed Sohel Rana put up a cross from the left side that met an unmarked Jewel, whose header from the middle of the box left the Manang keeper Sreshtha with no chance.
Five minutes after Sunday’s header hit the woodwork, the Nigerian finally got into the scoresheet in the 75th minute as his shot from the left side of the box following a Jibon pass unsettled Sreshtha and the ball crossed the goalline through the legs of the baffled netminder.
In-form midfielder Mamunul Islam finished the job with a stunner to seal the last goal in injury time with a powerful left-footed strike from 20 yards out following a back pass from Sunday.
Lemos was a happy man after the game and said the encounter was easier than anticipated, and is looking forward to finishing the job against Minerva in India Wednesday.
Manang head coach Chhiring Lopsang blamed the hot weather for the poor performance.
Abahani 5 (Jibon 11, Belfort 45+1, Jewel 63, Sunday 75, Mamunul 90+1) 0 Manang