Promoted Uttar Baridhara Club earned their first points in the history of top-tier professional football league when they held giants Mohammedan Sporting Club to a goalless draw in their Bangladesh Premier League match at Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Baridhara, who have made it from the Third Division to the top-tier seven years ago, never looked overawed by their illustrious opponents, rather impressed one and all with their enterprising play. The head coach of the club, Mohammad Alamgir, made it hard to work the ball in their backline as he fielded a 1-4-3-2 formation with a sweeper back behind the back four.
"This draw is as good as a win for us. We had only 10-12 days of practice, but the boys played really well and they were not overwhelmed by their opponents," said the veteran coach, who oversaw his side's rise through the ranks.
On the other hand, Mohammedan, who have never won the top-tier professional football league in six attempts so far, are already showing signs of slipping out of the title race with their second successive stalemate. The Black and Whites, who brought in Portuguese coach Rui Jose Capela Batista two days before the start of the league, hardly made an impression and despite fielding a 4-2-3-1 formation and creating quite a few chances, never looked like threatening the opponents due to some lacklustre efforts from the strikers and terrible communication between the players.
The attacking quartet comprising Zahid Hossain, Zahid Hasan Emily, Wahed Ahmed and Egyptian Mostafa Seddik, had a number of chances in the first half to break the deadlock, but were pathetic in front of goal. Capela made two changes at the start of the second half, bringing in Nigerian striker Chuka Charles in place of Wahed and Nigerian midfielder Damien Chigozie in place of Hemanta Vincent Biswas, but that made little impact on their game.
The best action of the match was produced by Uttar Baridhara in the 55th minute when Nigerian forward Akindele took a snap shot at goal in between two defenders after being set up by compatriot Quadri Larne, but a brilliant fingertip save from Mamun saved the day for the Black and Whites.
Mohammedan forward Seddik missed a sitter in the 60th minute when he failed to get his foot on the end of a Damien Chigozie cross while two late attempts in the stoppage time from Zahid and Emily were cleared off the goalline by Baridhara defender Saeedur Rahman.
Mohammedan coach Capela conceded it was another 'bad day' for his 'not-so-good-team', who need at least three players in different positions during the mid-season transfer window, to mount a title challenge.
"I just had 6-7 training sessions so far and I need more time, so the fans need to keep patience. But at the same time, we are not a very good team at the moment. We need at least a good stopper back, a good striker and a good attacking midfielder during the mid-season transfers," said the 44-year-old Portuguese.
But the question is will it be too late by then for the falling giants?