A couple of goals in injury time saw reigning champion Chittagong Abahani Limited and newcomer Saif Sporting Club play out a monotonous 1-1 draw in the inaugural match of the Independence Cup at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka Tuesday.
The game involving the two big-spending clubs appeared like none of the sides wanted to score, displaying soulless performance throughout the game, while the day's second match at the same venue between Brothers Union and Farashganj Sporting Club produced more movement and pace with the latter winning the game 2-1.
There were a couple of notable attacks during stipulated time and that too in the opening half, initiated by Chittagong Abahani. The first one came in the 13th minute when defender Sushanta Tripura missed the target from a yard away of the goal-line when he headed Mohammad Abdullah's cross over the bar. In the 36th minute, Abdullah broke into the right side of the box only to hit the sidenet.
Masuk Miah Joni came off the bench in the second half and as injury time began, the midfielder gave Chittagong Abahani the lead, volleying home from 20 yards out after Jamal Bhuiyan's headed-clearance from Abdullah's corner fell onto the feet of Joni.
Saif Sporting equalised immediately after Nurul Nayeem Faisal and Tripura brought down Ibrahim inside the box to gift the first penalty of the tournament. Jewel Rana's shot from the spot slipped from the hands of Chittagong Abahani goalkeeper Ashraful Islam Rana, hit the sidepost before crossing the goal-line. Referee blew the final whistle before Jewel completed the celebration.
Saif Sporting loaned in eight players from Chittagong Abahani for the AFC Cup squad and five of them were in the starting XI of the port city club Tuesday, including Rana, defenders Tripura and Faisal and midfielders Sohel Rana and Abdullah. Both the clubs have the same financial root. The owner of Saif Sporting Club is Saif Powertec Limited, its managing director Tarafder Ruhul Amin also performing his duty as the football committee chairman of Chittagong Abahani.
Chittagong Abahani and Saif Sporting are in Group D along with Arambagh Krira Sangha. The top two finishers from each group will move to the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, it was a different story of Farashganj, who recently relegated to the second-tier league after finishing at the bottom of the 12-team premier league. The Old Dhaka outfit opened their Group B campaign beating the Gopibagh outfit 2-1. Farhad Mona netted both the goals in the 22nd and 84th minute. Forward Bishal Das pulled one back for Brothers in the 89th minute.
Ctg Abahani 1
(Joni 90+1) 1 Saif Sporting
(Bishal 89) 2 Farashganj
(Farhad 22, 84)