Ten-man Bangladesh Premier Football League champion Dhaka Abahani Limited earned their first victory in the AFC Cup 2017, that too in some style, when they handed Indian champion Bengaluru FC an incredible 2-0 defeat in their fourth group stage match at Bangabandhu National Stadium on Wednesday.
Both the goals came in the dying stages of the game after the Sky Blues were reduced to 10 men. The second youngest player in the Abahani squad, Saad Uddin, came off the bench to give Abahani the deserved lead three minutes before the end of stipulated time before youngster Rubel Mia scored a spectacular winner from almost the halfway line in injury time.
Abahani, who suffered three straight defeats prior to Wednesday's match, dominated the tie from the very beginning, be it controlling midfield or possession or creating more chances. Their efforts were overshadowed slightly when veteran defender Nasir Uddin Chowdhury received his marching order. But the two youngest players of Abahani's squad showed up at the late stages to provide the Dhaka giant their first points in the tournament.
Despite the win, Abahani are rooted at the bottom of the points table with three points while Bengaluru stayed top with nine points, alongside Maldives champion Maziya Sports and Rrecreation Club, who outplayed Mohun Bagan 5-2 at home on the same day.
There were three changes in Drago Mamic’s playing XI. Midfielder Emon Babu and defender Samad Yussif both returned to the starting XI along with Rubel, who slotted to the right wing.
Samad replaced Mamun Mia at the heart of the defence while Emon returned from injury to take control of midfield in place of Tutul Hossain Badshah. Pacy winger Rubel started ahead of striker Nabib Newaj Jibon while the inclusion of Samad meant Abahani started with three foreign players. Bengaluru, on the other hand, made four changes, bringing in Sandesh Jhingan, Cameron Watson, Udanta Singh and Vineeth.
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Abahani's Saad Uddin gives his side the lead DHAKA TRIBUNE
The home side seemed to have regained momentum in midfield with the return of Emon. They dominated the first half and controlled possession but failed to penetrate the opponent's defence that started with five defenders. Sitting comfortably at the top of the table, Bengaluru didn’t look in any hurry in the opening half but shifted their strategy by bringing in forward Lalhlimpuia Daniel in place of defender Nushu Kumar at the start of the second half.
Rubel created the first chance in the 12th minute when his curved left-footed strike from 25 yards flew inches over the crossbar. In the 16th minute, Emeka Darlington passed the ball to Rubel before sprinting into the penalty area to meet the latter's cutback but the Nigerian failed to utilise the chance shooting wide.
The visiting side had a decent chance in the 79th minute when substitute forward Alwyn George's shot from the middle of the box was saved by Shahidul Alam Sohel.
The home side was stunned when they were reduced to 10 men two minutes later as their most experienced player Nasir received his second booking.
Substitute forward Saad, who replaced Emon in the middle of the second half, gave the Sky Blues the deserved lead three minutes before the end of stipulated time. Saad, the second youngest player on display at the big bowl on Wednesday after Tutul, placed the ball home into the near post with a right-footed strike, following a precise cross from Wales' Jonathan David Brown from the right flank.
Abahani almost doubled the lead a minute later when Jonathan’s shot from the edge of the box went inches wide off the far post after Saad fed the Welsh forward with a neat pass.
The visiting side went all-out for the equaliser. Abahani duly took advantage when Rubel netted a brilliant goal to double the lead in injury time. Following a counter-attack, the national winger took a lobbed effort from almost the halfway line that entered into the net after one bounce.
Earlier, the Sky Blues began their AFC Cup campaign at home on March 14 against Maziya, losing 2-0. They lost 3-1 against Mohun Bagan away from home in their second match on April 4.