Reigning champion Chittagong Abahani Limited set up a final clash with Arambagh Krira Sangha after edging Rahmatganj Muslim Friends Society 1-0 in the second semi-final of the Independence Cup at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka Tuesday.
National striker Shakhawat Hossain Rony netted the winning goal in the added time of the first half from the spot while goalkeeper Ashraful Islam Rana played a crucial role by saving a penalty in the second half to keep the lead intact.
The Chittagong outfit will play in the grand finale for the second consecutive time. And this time around, they will face giant killer Arambagh. The two sides had played each other in the group stage which ended 1-1.
The Old Dhaka outfit went close to scoring in the 11th minute when forward Mohammad Helal failed to capitalise on a great opportunity by shooting wide after Rana failed to grip a long cross. Chittagong Abahani also squandered a chance moments later when winger Jafar Iqbal's close-range header missed the target.
Rony put the port city outfit ahead from a controversial penalty in the first minute of injury time. Mojammel Hossain Nira conceded a handball on the goal-line when Rahmatganj goalkeeper Golam Mustafa punched away an Abdullah cross towards his own net in the 40th minute.
The game was stopped for more than five minutes upon protest from Rahmatganj officials, including head coach Kamal Babu. Referee booked Nira for the foul and Mamunul Islam for the aftermath quarrel and the consequence resulted in 10 minutes of injury time.
Rahmatganj wasted a great opportunity to equalise when Rana produced a superb save diving to his right to deny substitute midfielder Mohammad Elias' penalty after Rahmatganj defender Shamim Reza was fouled by Sohel Rana inside the box.
Chittagong Abahani head coach Zulfikar Mahmud Mintu said after the game, "Our players went through tight fixtures in the last couple of weeks but they proved their agility and toughness."
Mintu added, "Arambagh are doing very well under Maruful Haque. They will be tough opponent to face in the final."
Arambagh reach grand finale
Arambagh continued their amazing run as they swept into the final of the Independence Cup for the first time in history after edging Lt. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club 1-0 in a thrilling semi-final at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka Monday.
The all-important goal came a minute before the end of stipulated time through forward Mohammad Jewel after a number of close attempts ended in vein due to profligate finishing.
Maruful Haque's side drew against Chittagong Abahani and Saif Sporting Club in the group stage before outplaying Abahani Limited in the quarter-final. These three sides along with Sheikh Jamal finished in the top four in the Bangladesh Premier League this season.
"Our target was semi-final but I always had the belief in the capability of my team, that they can make it to the final. The players proved their worth as they had to face all top four teams of the league before making it happen. If they continue this run, we have every chance to win the final as well," said Maruf to reporters after the game.
Arambagh, who finished eighth in the premier league this season, never even reached the semi-final of the Independence Cup before but they managed to make it into the final of the Federation Cup last season. The club announced a reward of Tk four lakhs in honour of the team members for the rare feat.
Sheikh Jamal controlled the midfield but failed to create clear-cut chances. They went close to scoring in the 24th minute but Arambagh goalkeeper Azam Khan fisted away defender Anisur Alam's strike. Veteran midfielder Zahed Parvez Chowdhury hit the sidepost in the added time of the first half.
Arambagh appeared a different side after resumption while Sheikh Jamal’s defence looked more vulnerable with the game rolling towards the final whistle. Abu Sufian Sufil's effort went inches wide off the far post five minutes into the second half.
Arambagh had a golden opportunity in the 59th minute when Arif’s shot from a deflected cross of Mohammad Jewel went wide. They got another chance three minutes later and this time around, Arif's close-range shot from an unmarked position missed the target.
In the 81st minute, Mohammed Jabed Khan's shot in front of an empty net flew over the crossbar following a low cross by defender Khan Mohammad Tara. Another Jabed effort in the 87th minute went over the bar.
Jewel gave Arambagh the much deserved lead in the 89th minute, smashing home from the outside of the six-yard box following a cutback by Sufil.
Jabed had two consecutive shots in injury time, one was blocked while the other flew over the bar.
Ctg Abahani 1
(Rony 45+1) 0 Rahmatganj
(Jewel 89) 0 Sheikh Jamal
Ctg Abahani v Arambagh, BNS, Dhaka