Bashundhara Kings win Championship League
Bashundhara Kings clinched the title of the Bangladesh Championship League -- the second-tier of the professional football league -- in their maiden appearance after a dramatic 2-1 victory over Agrani Bank at the Shaheed Mostafa Kamal Stadium yesterday.
The new entrants of professional football, who were introduced into the second-tier right after their Pioneer League appearance in the previous year, rode on two late strikes from ageless striker Rokonuzzaman Kanchan after Agrani Bank had taken the lead early in the second-half through Amir Hakim.
Having come into the match with 32 points from 16 matches, Bashundhara Kings needed a win to take an unassailable lead over second-placed NoFeL sporting Club, who have 28 points from the same number of matches.
And the cash-rich side, bankrolled by the Bashundhara Group and deemed fit for professional football due to having fulfilled the conditions put forward by the game's governing body, were all ready to celebrate the title in style. The club's patrons were in presence at the stands while around eight thousand supporters thronged the galleries with flags, placards and trumpets. The supporters kept trumpeting all through the first half in anticipation of their impending glory.
But Agrani Bank, the side second from the bottom in the 10-team table, made things hard for the champion aspirants in the first half as there were hardly any open chances. The Bankers started the second half strongly and Tenjing Norkak got close to breaking the deadlock on 55 minutes when he rounded off the Bashundhara Kings goalkeeper, only to blast straight at the goalkeeper.
Bashundhara Kings' Mohiuddin Rassel and Arif Hossain missed two easy chances before Agrani bank's Amir Hakim made them pay with a fine solo effort in the 63rd minute.
All the trumpets and vuvuzelas suddenly fell silent as the Bashundhara Kings supporters thought their party would have to wait for another day.
But then there was a sudden drop of guard in Agrani Bank's play, who looked more intent on passing the ball around without much effort to move the ball towards the opposition goal. Although the Agrani Bank goalkeeper produced some fine saves, their defence was looking extremely lethargic and vulnerable.
The 37-year-old Kanchan, once a prominent striker of the national team, took full advantage of the opposition's lackadaisical approach, poking in two goals from almost unmarked situations on the 68th and 82nd minutes. The two goals made him the top-scorer in the league with 12 goals as Bashundhara Kings trudged towards the title.
They even had the luxury of fielding the club's president-cum-player Imrul Hasan as a striker for a few minutes before the final whistle. Imrul, who did not play in any of the previous matches, did not get to touch the ball, but was nevertheless happy to indulge in the winning feeling with his players. And so was Kanchan, and the team's head coach Asifuzzaman, the entire coaching staff and advisers and a host of fans.
Bashundhara Kings' success follows the path of Saif Sporting Club, who also won the Championship League title in their maiden appearance in any level of football last season before becoming one of the contenders for the Bangladesh Premier League this season. Whether cash-rich Bashundhara Kings, which was formed in 2013, will be able to step up their game when playing against the big boys is something only time will tell.