Abahani's hopes hanging
Abahani's hopes of a place in the semifinals of the Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup hang in the balance after being held to a goalless draw by Pocheon Citizen FC at the MA Aziz Stadium in Chittagong yesterday.
Having suffered a 0-1 defeat to TC Sports Club in their first match, Abahani desperately needed a win over Pocheon Citizen FC, but luck did not favour the Sky Blues despite them creating a few scoring chances against the third-tier club from South Korea.
Croatian coach Drago Mamic fielded five defenders, who brilliantly thwarted the forwards of Pocheon, a side who handed a 2-0 defeat to FC Alga of Kyrgyzstan in their opener. On the other hand Nigerian Emeka Darlington, Abahani's lone striker, and substitute Nabib Newaj Jibon failed to capitalise on a few occasions to break the deadlock.
From the beginning, Pocheon Citizen FC controlled the game with their crisp passing and pressed hard to put their noses in front but the Abahani backline, marshalled by Ariful Islam, Yeasin Khan, Wali Faisal, Tapu Barman and Shakil Ahmed, proved difficult to break down. And although Pocheon came close to taking the lead twice in the first half, Abahani goalkeeper Shahidul Alam Sohel managed to keep them at bay.
Abahani launched their first fruitful attack from the right flank with Jonathan David going deep to whip in a well-placed cross for Emeka, who saw his header hit the opposition goalkeeper Choi Ahn Seong on the hand and bounce out during the first-half stoppage time.
Abahani pressed hard to break the deadlock in the second half and came close in the 61st minute when Jonathan beautifully crossed to Emeka, who in turn headed it towards Simon Ezeodika on the edge of the six-yard box. But Abahani were left frustrated again as the midfielder drove the shot miles off target.
Seven minutes later, Abahani survived a scare when Pocheon substitute Lee Seong Woo rattled the crossbar before Shin Seopn Hyun headed wide an opportunity in the 75th minute.
Two minutes from time, Abahani found possibly the easiest chance of the day when Tapu Barman passed a Wali Faisal corner to Jonathan who then chipped it to substitute Jibon. Bafflingly though the Abahani striker, who merely needed to tap it in from inside the six-yard box, floated the shot over the crossbar with his first touch of the game after coming on to replace Emaka.
“It was the most important match for us to stay in the race after losing the first match. But I have to admit it was tough to play against strong Pocheon but I believe the boys deserve praise for the way they fought for a draw,” Abahani coach Drago Mamic said after the match.
Meanwhile, TC Sports Club became the first team to move into the semifinals after a come-from-behind 2-1 win over FC Alga last night, leaving Pocheon Citizen FC and Dhaka Abahani to fight for the other semifinal spot from Group A.
TC Sports Club topped with six points while Pocheon and Abahani have four and one point respcectively. FC Alga were eliminated with one match in hand.