Arambagh ended their long-standing final jinx by upstaging defending champions Chittagong Abahani 2-0 in the final of the Walton Independence Cup at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
First-half goals from Mohammad Arif and Mohammad Rocky gave the youthful side from central Dhaka a richly-deserved victory over the big-spenders from Chittagong and ended a losing streak which had stretched to four finals.
It was a vindicating experience for Maruful Haque's charges, who had finished eighth in the Bangladesh Premier League but put up some strong performances throughout this season-ending tournament.
The youngsters from Arambagh were clearly the more spirited and enterprising side throughout the game and delighted the few thousand supporters, most of whom had gathered from the neighbouring Arambagh area to watch history being made.
Both sides had similar passage to the final, scraping through the same group with two draws before big wins in quarterfinals followed by single-goal wins in semifinals. However, that road to the final was perhaps the only similarity between the two sides.
The big-spenders from Chittagong Abahani boasted seven players in the starting eleven who had been part of the national team at some point or the other. Their opponents, unknown quantities before this tournament, had only one player in their entire squad that had prior experience of being in the national team.
The other big difference was the fact that while Chittagong Abahani were losing momentum towards the end of the season, it was just about the time that their lightweight opponents were gaining it. And that confidence seemed to play a big part in the outcome of the final as Arambagh looked sharp and focused, both in their attack and defence, against a lethargic display from Chittagong Abahani.
After the initial exchange of play saw neither side take control, Arambagh burst into the lead through Arif's glancing header on a cross from Shahriar Bappi from the right in the 20th minute. Arif, adjudged the player of the final as well as the player of the tournament, lost his marker inside the box and headed in at the far post as opposition goalkeeper Ashraful Islam Rana could barely watch.
The nippy forward then burst into the box seven minutes later, only to see his attempt drift narrowly wide of the far post.
Chittagong Abahani's veteran midfielder Mamunul Islam's curling corner kick forced Arambagh keeper Azam Khan into making a last-ditch goalline save before Rocky struck the second goal on the stroke of half time. The Arambagh right-back stabbed home a Mohammad Jewel cross from the top of the six-yard box as the Chittagong Abahani defence was caught napping.
Chittagong Abahani upped their game after the hour-mark, with Mohammad Abdullah and substitute Mannaf Rabbi providing some dangerous crosses from the flanks, but there was hardly any penetration from their vaunted strike force featuring Shakhawat Hossain Rony and Tawhidul Alam Sabuj. Rabbi saw his cross headed straight at the goalie by Sabuj on 64 minutes before another one of his crosses was struck against the crossbar by Abdullah.
The port city side launched a few more attacks towards the end, but hardly tested Azam Khan as Arambagh ran home with their maiden title.