Title contenders Sheikh Jamal DC continued their hundred per cent record in the ongoing Bangladesh Premier League when they handed Muktijoddha Sangsad a 1-0 defeat at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Haitian striker Wedson Anselme struck the decider in the 22nd minute to help the Federation Cup champions regain the sole lead in the 10-team table with maximum 12 points, three clear of second-placed Sheikh Russel KC while Muktijoddha Sangsad, after two successive defeats, stayed at fifth position with four points from as many matches.
Sheikh Jamal came into the match having scored 11 goals in their previous three matches, but they found the going hard against the All Reds, a side they had beaten 1-0 in the final of the Federation Cup.
The 2011 champions played comparatively better in the first half, but their in-form striking duo of Emeka Darlington and Wedson, who have shared eight goals between them before yesterday's match, looked inconspicuous throughout the match except for the one move which decided the outcome.
Right winger Mobarak Hossain came close to giving Sheikh Jamal the lead in the 11th minute, but his effort from inside the box sailed over the bar. Muktijoddha Sangsad earned a penalty kick six minutes later when Nigerian striker Nkwocha Kingsley was brought down by Sheikh Jamal goalkeeper Ziaur Rahman inside the box. Referee Toyeb Hasan pointed to the spot against vehement protests from the Sheikh Jamal players, and Nigerian forward Eleta Kingsley found the back of the net with a powerful shot. However, the referee disallowed the goal and instructed a re-take as a couple of Muktijoddha players had entered the box before the kick was taken. Kingsley, in his second attempt, struck straight at the bar and Sheikh Jamal survived an early scare.
Three minutes later, Muktijoddha keeper Rasel Mahmud Liton committed a foul by pushing Darlington inside the danger zone while trying to clear a long ball. Wedson made no mistake from the spot and raised his tally to three goals.
After resumption, Muktijoddha established their control in the midfield but it was Sheikh Jamal who went close to doubling the lead from a counter-attack, but Liton charged out of the danger zone to thwart an effort from Wedson five minutes into the second half.
Muktijoddha should have levelled the margin on the hour-mark but Nkwocha Kingsley failed to find the target despite receiving and controlling the ball well and beating the goalie. It worked as a wake-up call for Sheikh Jamal, who tightened their backline and did not allow the opponents any space to manoeuvre any scoring chances. The win is Sheikh Jamal's lowest margin win so far in the league as they defeated Chittagong Abahani 3-1, Brothers Union 4-1 and Feni Soccer 4-2 in their previous matches.
“It was not luck, rather we deserved to win as we played good football,” said Sheikh Jamal coach Joseph Afusi in the post-match press conference.
His opposite number Shafiqul Islam Manik blamed the referee for the defeat.
“Both the decisions by the referee were unacceptable. First he ruled out the first penalty kick despite whistling for goal. And then he awarded Sheikh Jamal a penalty kick even though our goalkeeper touched the ball in the air while trying to clear a long ball.”