Plain sailing for big guns
It was smooth sailing for all three favourites -- Sheikh Russel KC, Mohammedan SC and Team BJMC -- in the opening day of the Grameenphone Federation Cup held at two different venues yesterday.
On the opening day of the 15-team season's curtain-raising tournament, the focus was obviously on the moneybags Sheikh Russel KC who showed their character to post an emphatic 5-0 win over Bangladesh Police under floodlights at the Bangabandhu National Stadium. There were also highlights from a youthful Mohammedan SC who overwhelmed Rampur Boys Club of Feni 4-0, thanks to a hattrick from Benin's hitman Oladikpicpo Wasio Olalekan at the same venue. Things were not nearly as comfortable for Team BJMC, as last year's runners-ups recorded only a single-goal win over Khulna Abahani Ltd. Khulna are playing in the top-level tournament for the first time in three years after being relegated from the second edition of the professional football league in 2008.
The strict immigration requirements imposed all international footballers, especially from Africa, made the tournament a veritable showground for local talent. Many took the chance with both hands. Taklish Ahmed, for example, struck the decisive goal two minutes into the second half to give Team BJMC a winning start at the Birshreshtha Shaheed Mostafa Kamal Stadium. Local stars Zahid Hossain Emily, winger Zahid Hasan, defender Ashraf Mabmud Linkon and Anwar Hossain also struck in their first match for the star-studded Sheikh Russel.
Still, it was left to a small contingent of foreign players who had managed to make their way into Bangladesh to light up the venues with their performances. Under the floodlight, Sheikh Russel's Haitian attacking midfielder Sony Norde, who also played for Mexican side San Luis FC's U-20 squad, impressed all with his technique, control on ball and shooting capacity as the former Haitian international struck one goal and assisted one.
Bangladesh international Zahid was also not far behind and impressed after earning a spot kick. Zahid was brought down by Police defender Ashraful inside the box and Emily sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to put Sheikh Russel ahead in the tenth minute. Sony doubled the lead with a powerful shot from outside of the box two minutes from the break. Zahid, the former Abahani winger, made it 3-0 in the 62nd minute with a brilliant over-head flick before defender Linkon collected a low-cross from Sony to widen the margin in the 76th minute. Substitute striker Anwar Hossain sealed the match scoring the fifth goal two minutes from time.
Back to the first match at the BNS, Mohammedan, who last season failed to qualify for the Federation Cup semifinals, got off to a flying start, riding on tournament's second hattrick by Olalekan after Jessore DFA's Ekadosh's Titu had slotted the first hattrick in the qualifying round .
Olalekan last season joined the Black and Whites in the middle of the professional football league to help them finish third in the league and the Benin man managed to enter Bangladesh due to his dual citizenship of France and marked his start with a treble.
He put Mohammedan ahead in the very sixth with a close-range header before doubling the lead in the 41st minute with a flick and completed his hattrick with a tap-in from close range in the 45th minute.
Substitute striker Mohammad Robin, who returned the Black & Whites from archrivals Abahani, sealed the match in the 85st minute to leave the field with heads held high.