Bangladesh Premier League champions Abahani twice came from behind to hold Minerva Punjab to a 2-2 draw in their AFC Cup encounter, thanks to a goal each from on-song strikers Nabib Newaj Jibon and Sunday Chizoba at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
The draw means the Sky Blues still lead Group E with four points from two outings, but they were joined on top by Chennaiyin FC who beat Manang Marshyangdi Club 2-0 in the other match of the group later last night. I-League champions Minerva Punjab were in third position with two points while Manang Marshyangdi Club were yet to get off the mark.
Abahani took the field with a morale-boosting 4-3 win over Sheikh Jamal DC in the domestic circuit but their confidence was damaged soon after the kick-off as Minerva Punjab applied tremendous pressure on the home side and came close to taking the lead in the 12th minute. Lalmuanouia Samuel's shot, though, missed the target by a few inches.
With Abahani struggling to take control in midfield, the visitors exposed the home side's defence a few times before unmarked Mahmoud Al Amna fired home from the six-yard box in the 16th minute after collecting a square-pass from Samuel.
Abahani hit back four minutes later when Haitian marksman Kervens Belfort made a darting run down the left flank before providing a cut-back for Jibon, who placed it at the near post.
Abahani could have taken the lead a minute later when Sunday raced into the box past two defenders with goalkeeper Bhaskar Roy to beat, but the Nigerian's placing was shot thwarted by the onrushing goalkeeper before efforts from Rubel Mia and Jibon were also thwarted.
With Abahani showing signs of controlling the game, defender Raihan Hassan made an unpardonable mistake in the 42nd minute by depositing the ball straight to unmarked Sreyas Valiyaveettu just outside the box and the substitute striker hammered a powerful shot to beat Abahani goalkeeper Shahidul Alam Sohel.
Abahani started the second half better and equalised when Wali Faisal's his free-kick came off the post, with Sunday tapping home from close in the 48th minute.
On the hour-mark, Jibon tried his luck from 20 yards but his curving shot missed the target narrowly before Minerva Punjab squandered an easy chance as unmarked Makan Winkele flicked wide despite getting the Abahani goalkeeper alone.
Sohel then made an excellent save to keep parity in the 86th minute, six minutes after jibon struck the side netting.
With the match entering three minutes of added time, Abahani got another chance to grab all three points, but Belfort's header on a chip from Sohel Rana went wide as both sides had to be content with a point each.