Defending champions Arambagh Krira Shangha stormed into the quarterfinals of the Independence Cup as group champions after demolishing Saif SC 3-1 in their last Group A fixture at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Cameroonian marksman Paul Emile scored a hattrick as Arambagh secured maximum six points from two outings while Saif SC, despite the defeat, finished as group runners-up courtesy of their win over Team BJMC in the tournament opener.
Having already confirmed quarterfinal berths, both teams were looking for the bragging rights of becoming group winners. Both teams played a fast-paced game, but the holders were ahead in terms of quick attacks in transition and scored all three goals through quick attacks after having dispossessed the opposition in midfield.
Arambagh exposed the opposition defence time and again through some nippy moves by three of their forwards -- Chinedu Mathew, Emile and Arifur Rahman – in the first half hour. They should have taken the lead during that period but Emile failed to find the target twice within the first nine minutes before being denied by Saif SC goalkeeper Ziaur Rahman.
Saif SC reorganised and launched a couple of attacks but the drives from Danis Bolshakov and Maraz Hossain hardly troubled Arambagh goalkeeper Mazharul Islam Himel.
Emile made amends for his earlier misses to open the scoring in the 45th minute when he brought down a long-ball from Parvez Mia with his chest inside the box, transferred it to his left foot and drove home past Zia.
Arambagh KS kept their dominance after the lemon break with the players running in same pace and Emile doubled the lead in the 62nd minute when Rabiul Islam snatched the ball from Saif's Korean midfielder Seungil Park to put a forward-pass to Arifur Rahman, who darted into the box to square-pass it to Emile and. The Cameroonian did not hesitate to fire home from inside the box.
Six minutes later, national team captain Jamal Bhuiyan pulled a goal back with a shot from the edge of the box to bring some excitement but Emile made the outcome safe for Arambagh by completing his hattrick with a brilliant chip from inside the box in 80th minute with at least eight players of Saif SC inside the danger zone.
“I feel really happy after getting a hattrick,” Emile said. “I scored my first and last hattrick during my first season with Sheikh Russel in 2013-14. Maruful [Haque] was my coach at that time. I spent there a couple of seasons but I didn't come to Bangladesh last season when I played in Vietnam league.
“It's important for me in Arambagh to finish as the champions. Arambagh is a good team and I think they will get better this season. We are not a big side but we try to play our best,” said Emile.