Bangladesh champion Abahani Limited earned their first win in the AFC Cup 2018 in some style after handing last-season's I-league champion Aizawl Football Club a 3-0 thrashing in their third Group E match, at Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati, Assam Wednesday evening.
Youngster Rubel Mia, Nigerian defender Alison Udoka and Japanese midfielder Seiya Kojima netted one apiece, all in the first half, inspiring the Sky Blues to bounce back in the prestigious event after a couple of narrow defeats in their opening two encounters.
Head coach Saiful Bari Titu made three changes from the Bengaluru FC tie on March 14 this year. Emon Mahmud made it straight into the starting XI after recovering from long-term injury as he replaced the injured Sohel Rana in the heart of midfield. The club's domestic top-scorer, Nigerian striker Sunday Chizoba also returned from one-game suspension while throw-in specialist Rayhan Hasan returned as full-back, replacing the injured Saad Uddin.
The Sky Blues broke the deadlock within just two minutes into the clock when winger Rubel grabbed the club's first goal in the tournament. Rubel’s effort deflected off Chawnghlut Lalrosanga and looped into the net. Emeka Darlington provided the assist.
The visitor extended their lead in the 17th minute when Alison converted a scrappy effort from close range after a corner wasn’t cleared.
Kojima bagged his first goal for Abahani to extend the lead to 3-0 in the 37th minute when his right-footed half volley from inside the box beat the opponent keeper and went into the bottom left corner following a headed pass by Sunday.
The tourist continued to dominate the home side after resumption, albeit with a more cautious approach. Aizawl failed to put up any notable threat as they managed only three shots on target throughout the game against Abahani's seven.
The Bangladesh Premier League champion could have scored more, especially in the four minutes of added time where a couple of Sunday efforts and one Nabib Newaj Jibon shot were saved by the Aizawl defence.
Abahani will host Aizawl in their next group stage match at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on April 25.
Abahani playing Xl
Shahidul Alam Sohel; Waly Faisal, Alison Udoka, Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, Rayhan Hasan; Atiqur Rahman Fahad, Emon Babu (Mamun Miah, 85'), Seiya Kojima, Rubel Mia (Nabib Newaj Jibon, 63'); Sunday Chizoba, Emeka Darlington (Tutul Hossain Badshah, 76')
Aizawl 0 3 Abahani
(Rubel 2, Alison 17, Kojima 37)