Abahani inarguably displayed their best match of the season while inflicting the first defeat upon holders Sheikh Jamal with a 2-0 win in the Manyavar Bangladesh Premier League at Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Sheikh Jamal played the last 23 minutes with ten men after their Nigerian marksman Emeka Darlington received his marching order.
It was a day to remember for Abahani forward Wahed Ahmed, who scored a brace. The youngster’s brace helped Abahani enjoy a new life after some wretched performances of late. It would be mentionable that Abahani drew blanks against relegation candidates Farashganj in their last encounter. The win also meant that the title race has been blown wide open.
While Abahani were celebrating their best day in the top-flight this season, the Sheikh Jamal players were shocked and stunned. The defending champions lost their 26-match winning streak following their defeat to Abahani. A win yesterday would have consolidated their position at the top of the 11-team points table.
Abahani was the dominant force from the very beginning and in the third minute, midfielder Shahedul Alam saw his curved effort from the edge of the box miss the side-post by a whisker. Defender Nasirul Islam was looking towards the sky in the sixth minute when his dipping corner from the right flank rebounded off the side-post and was cleared by a Sheikh Jamal defender.
Abahani kept charging and Wahed squandered a golden chance in the 17th minute, failing to place the ball past Sheikh Jamal goalkeeper Mazharul Hemel in a one-on-one situation.
However, Wahed amended the failure with an opportunistic strike in the 20th minute. He was unmarked when a free-kick floated by Shahedul took an unexpected dip to deceive a Sheikh Jamal defender and Wahed headed the ball home from close range.
Sheikh Jamal was unusually below par with their attack and the foreign trio of Wedson Ansleme, Emeka and Landing Darboe appeared toothless. Sheikh Jamal’s first notable chance was scripted by Wedson in the 39th minute but he fired wide from a convenient position.
Following resumption, Landing was denied by Abahani custodian Ziaur Rahman, who punched the glancing header away for a corner in the 56th minute.
Wahed sealed the fate of the match two minutes later with a left-footed placing shot from a low Komol cross.
The day was over for Sheikh Jamal as Emeka failed to control his emotions while hitting compatriot Abahani defender Obum Henry in an off-the-ball incident. Emeka was duly shown the red card.
Sheikh Jamal are still at the top with 23 points from 10 matches while Abahani climbed to second with 17 points from nine matches.