Two of the youngest members of the Abahani squad played crucial roles as the Bangladesh Premier Football League champion outplayed last year's AFC Cup runners-up Bengaluru FC on Wednesday in what perhaps was one of their most memorable wins in recent times.
The Sky Blues picked up Saad Uddin at the start of last season after the young forward put up promising performances in the Saff U-16 Championship in 2015 and groomed the boy at the club premises with one eye on the future.
Saad, who is the second youngest member in the squad after Tutul Hossain Badshah, repaid the faith of the club by scoring Abahani’s opening goal, that too after coming off the bench when his side were playing with 10 men against the Indian League champion.
Before Wednesday's match, Bengaluru were on a six-match winning streak but the composure shown by the 19-year-old Saad and young winger Rubel Miah brought an end to their confident run.
Saad was one of the finest performers of Bangladesh’s triumph in the Saff Championship, in the process earning himself a place in the Dhanmondi outfit while most of his U-16 teammates have been lost to wilderness. Saad’s finishing on Wednesday provided the club with a slice of confidence ahead of the forthcoming season that kicks off on May 13 with the Federation Cup.
It was the first time Saad got the opportunity to feature in the AFC Cup and his last appearance came in the Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup. Saad informed he received hints prior to the start of the game that he might get some minutes under his belt.
“Replacing Emon [Babu], I started playing in midfield but after Nasir [Uddin Chowdhury] received the red card, I got the opportunity to play in a more attacking role. I scored an important goal. Playing in international match is always tough. Club put their faith on me and I worked hard to repay them. As Bangladesh football is going through hard times, the victory means more to me,” Saad told the media after the game.
Abahani head coach Drago Mamic was full of praise for Saad, Rubel and Emon.
“I’m very happy with my boys. It’s not easy to win against the strongest team in the group after you lost the first three matches. My team are a new team and the boys are really working hard to increase their performance,” said Mamic before adding, “We tried not to concede a goal after Saad scored. But can’t say anything about Rubel’s goal. He played terrifically well in this match, scored such a wonderful goal.”
Bengaluru’s Spanish coach Alberto Roca admitted that Abahani were different and most certainly the better side than the one they defeated at home.