Established giants Abahani denied newcomers Bashundhara Kings history by sealing their hattrick title of the Federation Cup with a come-from-behind 3-1 win in an eventful final at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Abahani's Nigerian and Haitian forwards Sunday Chizoba and Kervens Belfort outshone Bashundhara's Costa Rican marksman Daniel Colindres to deliver the Sky Blues their second hattrick title as well as a record 11th Federation Cup trophy, keeping intact the practice of not allowing newcomers to become champions in debut appearances.
Sunday cancelled out a 21st-mimute strike from Colindres five minutes into the second half with a tap-in before giving Abahani the lead in the 79th minute with a clinical finish. Belfort then wrapped up the victory in the 81st minute of the final, which was however marred by an ugly brawl between the two sets of players during the final moments after an entertaining 90 minutes of football.
Referee Mizanur Rahman was forced to send off Bashundhara Kings' Sushanta Tripura, Towhidul Alam Sabuz and Abahani's Mamun Mia and Nabib Newaj Jibon -- the latter three substitutes -- as they got engaged in an ugly scuffle following a foul. The eventful final also saw Sunday being taken to hospital following Bashundhara Kings' defender Nasir Chowdhury's merciless elbowing on the tournament's top-scorer and best player. The Nigerian was, however, later released from the hospital as there was no serious injury.
Despite the sending off of four players, the game was completed smoothly before spectators flocked into the ground to put the security of the players at risk following the final whistle.
The atmosphere was electric as half of the 23,000-capacty stadium was filled up by the fans of the two sides, with the reds of Bashundhara Kings being the more vibrant and far outnumbering the Dhanmondi faithful.
The players of both sides looked excited and engaged in heated exchanges following each foul while imposing the physical side of their game instead of concentrating on smooth build-up play, resulting in a lot of erratic passes in midfield. However, Abahani dominated the proceedings initially to shake Bashundhara Kings, with Raihan Hasan's long throw-ins causing trouble to the Kings' defence quite a few times.
Bashundhara Kings, playing with a compact midfield and defence by deploying Colindres as the lone striker, got rid of the initial pressure to launch attacks. Colindres did not disappoint the crowd as he gave his side the lead with a grounder from inside the box after Abahani goalkeeper Shahidul Alam Sohel made a feeble clearance.
After conceding the lead, Abahani players lost temperament before regrouping in the second half to bounce back with Sunday tapping in a long throw-in from Raihan in the 50th minute before the Nigerian gave his side the lead with a side-volley on Sohel Rana's forward pass in the 69th minute. Belfort, who had a trial with Bashundhara Kings before being signed by Abahani, wrapped up the victory, heading home Wali Faisal's corner in the 81st minute.