Abahani bow out
Although they failed to qualify for the next phase, Bangladesh Premier League champions Abahani ended their Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup campaign on a winning note as they handed a 2-1 defeat to Kyrgyzstan's FC Alga at the MA Aziz Stadium in Chittagong yesterday.
The match between Abahani and FC Alga was no more than an academic affair after Pocheon Citizen FC finished second in Group B by playing out a 1-1 draw with eventual group champions TC Sports Club.
While Abahani exited the tournament with a wooden spoon for the second successive time, the Sky Blues at least had the satisfaction of defeating a Central Asian outfit for the first time.
From the outset, Abahani exerted tremendous pressure and exposed FC Alga's backline, which survived two close calls as winger Jewel Rana drove his shots miles off target from inside the box, before defender Wali Faisal gave Abahani a well-deserved lead in the 27th minute, heading in from a corner.
Four minutes from the break, Abahani doubled their lead through English midfielder David Jonathan, who beat Alga goalkeeper Ruslan Dzhanybekov with a 25-yard free kick.
After resumption Alga gained a foothold in the match and created some good chances, but Abahani goalkeeper Shahidul Alam Sohel kept them at bay with some fine saves before defender Yeasin Khan conceded a penalty for handling the ball in the 76th minute. Tursunboi Husanov stepped up to the spot, reduced the margin and set the stage for a tense but ultimately anticlimactic finish.
In the first match of the day at the same venue, a second successive draw saw Pocheon come back from a goal behind to finish as runners-up in Group A with five points, ending Abahani's slim chances of moving into the semifinals.
From the outset, South Korean side Pocheon controlled the game with their crisp passing football. They came close to breaking the deadlock twice in the opening stages of the game, but they spurned the opportunities. TC Sports then took the lead against the run of play in added time of the first half when Stewart Conelius Ezekiel latched onto a through-ball and darted into the box before placing an angled shot into the far post.
With their fate hanging in the balance, Pocheon pressed for the equaliser after resumption to stay alive in the tournament and finally struck in the 76th minute, but not before surviving a scare.
Ibrahim Mabudhee Hussain squandered an opportunity to put the game to bed in the 69th minute, failing to beat the goalkeeper in a one-on-one situation before Park Jung Soo levelled the game after substitute Ko Ji Man hit the post from the spot.