Bangladesh Premier League champions Abahani's bid to get rid of the losing streak against Maldivian opponents was extended as they suffered a single-goal defeat in their AFC Cup Group E opener against New Radiant SC at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Striker Ali Fasir scored the all-important goal in the 58th minute with a classic angular shot from inside the box to decide the outcome, extending Bangladesh's winless streak against Maldivian opponents – both for national team and club sides, which dates back to 2011.
The six-time Bangladesh Premier League champions started the game brightly with some crisp passing and created the first scoring chance of the match. The hosts even found the back of the net three times, but two of those efforts were ruled out due to off-side while the other due to a foul on New Radiant goalkeeper Imran.
The match could have been different had Sunday Chizoba cashed in on his solo effort in the 23rd minute. The Nigerian broke the off-side trap to race into the danger box from the midfield with the goalkeeper to beat, but the prolific striker blasted the ball over the goalkeeper to frustrate the Abahani supporters.
Abahani survived two scares within two minutes as left-back Saad Uddin made a goalline clearance before goalkeeper Shahidul Alam Sohel came out to deny Fasir.
Following a corner-kick, Sunday's miscued attempt fell on unmarked defender Alison Udoka, who tapped in but the off-side flag was raised.
Abahani controlled the match for the first 15 of the second half, with Sunday coming close to breaking the deadlock but his glancing header off a Rubel Mia cross went over the crossbar in the 49th minute.
All those missed chances came back to haunt the hosts as the visitors took the lead in the 58th minute when Mohamed Umair's long ball from the midfield found Fasir, who brilliantly drove an angular left-footer from outside the six-yard box after shrugging off his marker Nasir Chowdhury.
Emeka Darlington had the ball in the back of the opposition net three minutes later, but once again the linesman's flag was raised. The hosts got a huge blow when Sunday was booked for the second time in the 65th minute.
Rubel worked hard on the right flank to expose the opposition defence, but his efforts went in vain while New Radiant, too, were denied twice. Once Udoka made a goalline save in the 70th minute while Sohel denied Ali Ashfaq from a one-on-one situation.
The Sky Blues earned three corners during the stoppage time and substitute striker Nabib Newaj Jibon found the net from a scramble inside the box, but the goal was ruled out due to a foul on the New Radiant goalkeeper.
Abahani will play their second match away to Bengaluru FC on March 14.