• Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019
  • Last Update : 07:14 pm

Maruful, the tactical mastermind

  • Published at 02:57 am October 30th, 2019
Maruful
On loan Chittagong Abahani coach Maruful Haque looks on during their Club Cup semi-final against Gokulam in Chittagong Dhaka Tribune/Md Manik

After his stint with treble winner Sheikh Russel, mini-spell as national team head coach to his inspirational time at Arambagh, Maruful Haque explained how some of his crucial strategic decisions worked out well, despite getting all the Chittagong Abahani squad members together for only a day before the tightly-scheduled Club Cup

It took Maruful Haque the first two matches to realize that he is the only Bangladeshi coach among the eight clubs from five countries in the Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup, but his game-plans and tactical acumen in guiding Chittagong Abahani Limited to the final put him ahead of the other coaches so far in the meet.

Bangladesh Premier League winner Bashundhara Kings and Indian League champion Chennai City FC couldn’t cope well against Sree Gokulam Kerala FC, who arrived late and won both two group stage matches with two-goal margin, but the next I-League favorite faced a different situation against the port city outfit in the semi-final Monday.

Nathaniel Garcia looked vibrant in the group phase, scoring and setting up goals from set-pieces, but Maruful's charges managed to resist all those threats with well-studied home works. 

The anticipated attacking channel between captain Marcus Joseph and tournament top-scorer Henry Kisekka was also blocked as planned before. 

The players showed valiant display to come from behind twice to take the lead in the extra-time.

Maruful also deployed six defenders, including four center-backs, in the last 15 minutes to defend the lead till final whistle.  

Among many topics from his treble-winning campaign at Sheikh Russel KC, mini-spell as national team head coach to his inspirational time at Arambagh KS, Maruful explained how some of his crucial strategic decisions worked out well, despite getting all the squad members together for only a day before the tightly-scheduled tournament.

"I got all the players for only a day before the tournament. I never want to make excuses because when players listen to those excuses they tend not to give their best. I have my own style to follow in such situation. I tried to study the opponents well before the meet. I learned from every match before going to the next," said the country’s only Uefa A licensed coach at his hotel room Tuesday.

In-form Jamal Bhuiyan also had to switch his regular playing position from defensive midfield to a more attacking role under Maruful, and got into the scoresheet immediately as the host came from a 2-1 deficit to beat Young Elephants of Laos 4-2 in the second group stage match.

Maruful’s tactical alterations in the second half changed the game completely and Manik Hossain Mollah became his reliable force in defensive midfield since then in the tournament. 

Maruful has high faith in Manik whom he brought to Arambagh before the previous season.

Maruful however, has still been tackling an unwanted situation caused by the signing of Ghanaian 2010 World Cupper striker Prince Tagoe, who has not played a single minute owing to a lack of fitness. 

Maruful was not involved with the signing but his squad now has only one fit center-forward in Luka Rotkovic, who is yet to find his form missing a series of scoring chances. 

But the “team bonding” of the side and versatile ability of Mohammad Sohel Rana made things easier.

“I have a common style which I never revealed to the media before, which is, if a player or team doesn’t become champion mentally, he will never be champion on the pitch. I told my players before the tournament to act like champions mentally, if they can do that, their approach and everything will be changed. They can also handle pressure easily,” said Maruful, who celebrated his 50th birthday last month.