Abahani’s Sunday Chizoba was the star of the pulsating contest, as the highest-scorer of the tournament scored a brilliant brace, taking his tally to six
Abahani Limited clinched their third consecutive Federation Cup title in style as the top-flight champion came from behind to defeat star-studded Bashundhara Kings 3-1 in an eventful final of the season-opening tournament at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka Friday.
Abahani’s Sunday Chizoba was the star of the pulsating contest, as the highest-scorer of the tournament scored a brilliant brace, taking his tally to six.
The Sky Blues have now become the sole record-holder of winning the highest (11) silverware in the history of the Federation Cup, leapfrogging arch-rival Mohammedan Sporting Club Limited, who have 10 titles.
The latest title also means Abahani qualified for the AFC Cup 2019.
Before the exciting match between traditional giant Abahani and cash-rich new sensation Bashundhara, the contest between Sunday and Bashundhara’s Costa Rican World-Cup star Daniel Colindres was also a subject of attraction.
Both the players scored four goals each before the match and were the most attractive players in the tournament.
The South American took an early lead by scoring in the first half, but the African became the eventual winner with two second-half goals.
Abahani’s Haitian recruit Krevens Belfort added another one to add a glorious chapter in the history books of the illustrated club.
Abahani carried on their improved performance from the group stage to the knockout stage consistently, and match by match, before putting up yet another dominating display against one of the most consistent teams in the competition.
However, Bashundhara couldn’t bring their consistency to the final, failed to cope with Abahani’s experience and their defence finally surrendered against Sunday and Belfort in the second half.
Kyrgyzstan’s defensive midfielder Baktiyar Duishobekov returned to the squad after international duty as he replaced Nurul Naim Faisal into the starting XI while Abahani kept an unchanged squad that brought them a semi-final win.
A sudden injury by Abahani’s key centre-back Topu Barman forced head coach Zakaria Babu to make an early substitution at the quarter-hour mark.
Youngster Tutul Hossain Badshah came off the bench to take Topu’s role.
The defence however, became disorganised for quite a while and Colindres took the opportunity.
Colindres broke the deadlock in the 21st minute after a shaky defensive response from Alamgir Kabir Rana’s cross.
Goalkeeper Shahidul Alam Sohel’s poor punch was collected by an unmarked Colindres and it was an easy slot home for him as he got enough time and space for a neat finish with the left foot.
Abahani had their chances in the 26th and 36th minute and on both occasions, it was Sunday whose first attempt with a close-range header was saved by keeper Anisur Rahman Zico before being brilliantly tackled by Sushanta Tripura at the edge of the six-yard box.
Abahani were denied in the first minute of the second half as Sunday’s shot hit the woodwork.
But the Nigerian finally found the equaliser as he placed home Rayhan Hasan’s long throw five minutes later.
Abahani’s Sohel Rana was arguably the top performer on the pitch among the local players.
The national midfielder played a vital role in penetrating the opponent’s defence, especially during the second goal in the 79th minute.
Sohel drifted past a couple of defenders to run towards the opponent’s terrain before feeding an unmarked Sunday to his left from the edge of the box.
Sunday calmly placed home to give his side the lead.
The Sky Blues remained composed as Belfort sealed victory by extending the lead three minutes later with a glancing header into the near post following a precise corner by Waly Faisal.
After the game turned into Abahani’s favour in only four minutes, it became difficult for some Bashundhara players to control their temper.
The situation worsened between the players of both the sides after a risky tackle sent Sunday off the pitch in an ambulance.
A bitter incident in injury time, followed by a clash between Bashundhara defender Sushanta Tripura and Abahani’s substitute striker Nabib Newaj Jibon resulted in a brawl, forcing referee Mizanur Rahman to splash four red cards to substitutes Mamun Mia (Abahani) and Towhidul Alam Sabuj (Bashundhara) along with Sushanta and Jibon.
Sohel was adjudged the player of the final while Sunday became the player of the tournament, along with clinching the top-scorer’s award.
Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra received fair play award.
Abahani 3 (Sunday 51, 79, Belfort 82) 1 Bashundhara (Colindres 21)
Top-scorer – Sunday Chizoba, Abahani (6 goals)
Player of final – Sohel Rana, Abahani
Player of tournament – Sunday Chizoba
Fair play award – Sheikh Russel
MOST FEDERATION CUP TITLES
Abahani Limited 11
Mohammedan Sporting Club Limited 10
Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra 3
Brothers Union 3
Lt. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club Limited 3
Year Winner Runners up
2018 Abahani Limited Bashundhara Kings
2017 Abahani Limited Chittagong Abahani Limited
2016 Abahani Limited Arambagh Krira Sangha
2015 Lt. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club Limited Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra
2013 Lt. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club Limited Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra