Title contenders Abahani closed gap on leaders Sheikh Jamal DC after defeating archrivals Mohammedan SC 1-0 in their Bangladesh Premier League encounter at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Ghanaian hitman Osei Morison separated the sides with a 17th-minute strike and helped the four-time champions leapfrog to second position in the ten-team table with 10 points from 12 matches, two behind Sheik Jamal DC, who have maximum 12 points from four outings.
On the other hand, the first defeat in four matches pushed Mohammedan down to sixth position with five points from four matches.
Even though Abahani could not match their 2-0 victory over the archrivals in the Federation Cup, the solitary goal from Morison, who also struck one of the two goals in that match, was enough to see them claim the bragging rights of prestigious battle at the big bowl, attended by a couple of thousands of spectators.
Morison, who was a former player of the Black and Whites, was supposed to play for them this season again, but the highest scorer of last edition signed up for Abahani after being insulted by Mohammedan officials. That incident seems to have charged him up against the Black and Whites.
“Yes, I think it was an answer to Mohammedan,” said Morison at the post-match briefing. “I have had the experience of playing the big Abahani-Mohammedan matches and I am really happy to have played a role in this victory.”
Starting on the back of a morale-boosting 3-1 win over Muktijoddha Sangsad in their previous match, Abahani dominated proceedings from the outset and went close to taking the lead twice within the first ten minutes before they finally went ahead with a strike from Morison.
Left-back Atiqur Rahman Meshu played a lob inside the box and it went to unmarked Morision after defender Mintu Sheikh failed to clear the danger. The tall-striker did juust poked it at the right side of the net past Mohammedan goalkeeper Mamun Khan.
Afterwards Mohammedan went close to levelling the margin twice but both the efforts from Zahid Hossain and Wahed Ahmed were floated over the crosspiece before Zahid Hasan Emily headed a Wahed cross straight to Abahani goalkeeper Shahidul Alam Shohel in the 35th minute.
After resumption, Mohammedan established their control in the midfield but could hardly expose the backline of Abahani. However, Hemanta Vincent Biswas found a wonderful opportunity to equalise in the 65th minute, but his shot was off-target.
From a counter-attack, Abahani earned a penalty in the 88th minute when Morison was brought down by Nahidul Islam inside the box, but Cameroonian midfielder Yoko Samnick struck straight at goalkeeper Mamun Khan. Morison then had another chance in the stoppage time to kill the match, but his shot on a gaping goal went awry.
“It was tough for the boys to play three matches in seven days and the task could have been easier had we got enough time in pre-season preparation. But to be frank, we played better than Abahani and we gave away the goal,” said Mohammedan coach Rui Capela Batista, who also thought dropping seven points in four matches is too big a loss for his side.