Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club clinched the title of the Bangladesh Premier League with two matches in hand when they handed a lone-goal defeat to Abahani at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Haitian hitman Wedson Anselme struck the all-important goal in the second half to provide Sheikh Jamal an unassailable lead with 58 points from 26 outings and ensured their second title of the professional football league after their debut triumph in 2010-11.
Needing just a single point to clinch the championship, Sheikh Jamal had to wait for 70 minutes to get the decisive goal against Abahani, who fell short of the championship for the second successive season having won the first three and fifth editions.
Back to the match, Abahani played better football and they should have taken the lead in the first half but Ghanaian striker Osei Morison squandered two easy chances despite getting opposition goalkeeper Mazharul Islam Himel alone.
Ever after resumption, Abahani saw their Portuguese striker Lionildo Suares fail to convert with an open net before him. Sheikh Jamal's Haitian Wedson and Nigerian Emeka Darlington then advanced, playing neat one-two passes between themselves to reach the edge of the box before Wedson let loose a right footer to beat goalkeeper Shahidul Alam Shohel.
In the dying moments, Abahani could have levelled the margin but goalkeeper Himel denied Suares to send Sheikh Jamal into celebrations as the Bangladesh Football Federation, for the first time, handed the coveted trophy to the winners on their winning day.
“It was the outcome of the hard work we have done in the last 10 months. We endured bad times but we recovered well as the management was so kind to us and provided all support to reach such a position,” said captain Mamunul Islam, who was also a member of Sheikh Jamal's first professional football league triumph in 2011.
Mamunul said that there is hardly any difference among Sheikh Jamal, Abahani, Mohammedan and other teams but the off-field activities of the club -- such as regular wages, winning bonuses, training facilities and mental support -- gave Sheikh Jamal the edge.
“It is quite something to win the league title with a win over four-time champions Abahani, but we could have been happiest had we also clinched the Independence Cup,” said Mamun, who also guided his club to a Federation Cup triumph.
One of the main architects of the win was Nigerian coach Joseph Afusi, but he was not with the team in their moment of glory as former Sheikh Russel coach Marugul Haque, who was Jamal's appointed chief technical consultant, guided the team in the last seven matches. “
There was an eight-point gap between Sheikh Jamal and its nearest rivals when I was appointed and it is my pleasure that we have reached the target with a 12-point gap as well as with two matches in hand,” said Maruf who last season guided Sheikh Russel to a rare treble win.
President Manzor Kader was very happy with the achievement of Sheikh Jamal but he was not happy with the way Sheikh Jamal played in the league.
“I will keep the achievement of finishing second in the IFA Shield early this year ahead of the Federation Cup and Bangladesh League wins. We will be trying to keep this squad intact in the next season,” said Kader who announced a win bonus of Tk 10 lakh for players and officials.