Abahani, the Bangladesh Premier League runners-up, will travel to North Korea’s capital Pyongyang for the second leg next Wednesday
Six-time Bangladesh Premier League champion Abahani Limited handed 18-time North Korean winner 4.25 SC a big surprise with a thrilling 4-3 defeat in a mouth-watering encounter in the first leg of the AFC Cup 2019 Inter-Zone semi-final at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka Wednesday.
4.25 conceded only two goals during their six matches in the group stages but Abahani scored two goals in the opening half thanks to two brilliant strikes by Sohel Rana and Nabib Newaj Jibon.
Nigerian striker Sunday Chizoba added two more goals from organized counter attacks in the second half.
Abahani made three changes from their last AFC Cup group phase match against Minerva Punjab by bringing in veteran defender Mamun Mia and new South Korean recruit Lee Tae-Min in place of the departed Masih Saighani and injured Mamunul Islam respectively.
Sunday also scripted a return leaving Jewel Rana on the bench.
The defence looked compact in the first half after Mario Lemos fielded an unusual defensive line-up with five defenders – Tutul Hossain Badshah, Mamun, Lee, Waly Faisal and Saad Uddin and Rayhan Hasan at defensive midfield.
The home side began the game brightly, getting close three times within the quarter-hour mark.
Saad tried his luck with a right-footer from outside the box in the third minute that went wide of the post.
In the 11th minute, Mamun volleyed over the bar from the top of the box followed by a rebounded long throw-in of Rayhan.
Kervens Belfort broke into the left side of the box a minute later but his shot was punched away by goalkeeper An Tae Song.
Sohel netted a spectacular long-range goal in the 33rd minute to put the home side ahead.
After a Belfort pass followed by Jibon’s back-heel, Sohel unleashed a bullet left-footed shot from 25 yards out that gave An no chance.
The visitor equalized two minutes later when Choe Jong Hyok took a shot from just outside the box followed by Hyok Chol’s back-pass that hit the net through the left side of Sohel.
Jibon put the Sky Blues ahead again three minutes later with a fine finish.
Another long throw-in by Rayhan was cleared by the defence, Waly sent the resultant ball inside the box that met Jibon, who placed home into the top right corner.
Korean striker Rim Chol Min restored parity in the 54th minute with the 4.25 captain showing great skill before smashing the ball into the top left corner after An Il-Bom’s pass.
The Koreans’ delight lasted for only three minutes as Sunday put the Bangladesh champion ahead again from a counter attack.
Receiving a long lob from Badshah, the Nigerian striker slotted home past the keeper from the top of the box.
Sunday scored again to extend the lead four minutes later after brilliant work by Haitian forward Belfort.
Belfort outwitted three Korean defenders before passing the ball to Sunday, who fired into the bottom left corner.
April 25 defender Pak Song Rok made it 4-3 in the 77th minute, heading past Sohel following a cross of Jong Hyok from the left side.
The Korean champion brought in their top scoring striker Kim Yu-Song to play the last 20 minutes of the game and they piled some pressure at the end for the equalizer, but all went in vain due to solid defence by the host.
Abahani, the Bangladesh Premier League runners-up, will travel to North Korea’s capital Pyongyang for the second leg next Wednesday.
A draw would send Abahani into the Inter-Zone final.