Local booters steal the show
Local footballers outshone the foreign recruits to give title contenders Saif SC a thrilling 3-2 win over Muktijoddha Sangsad in their Riviera Independence Cup encounter at the Birshreshtha Shaheed Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Kamalapur yesterday.
Following back-to-back victories, the past edition's runners-up now need a draw in their last match against Mohammedan SC, who were stunned 2-1 by Bangladesh Army, to confirm their quarterfinal berths from Group C.
Ranju Sikdar gave Army an 18-minute lead before Shahriar Emon wrapped up the remarkable win in the 69th minute over the Black and Whites, who pulled one back in stoppage time through Minhajur Abedin Rakib. Now Mohammedan and Army both find themselves at three points in the table.
Back to the first match, Saif were in a safe position until 80 minutes, with three strikes from as many local players, after which the charges of Argentinian coach Andres Cruciani suddenly conceded two goals within the last six minutes.
However, Saif kept their backline unbroken until the final whistle to leave the field on a high, courtesy of brilliant performances from the local players, especially national forward Faisal Ahmed Fahim, who had troubled Maldives in Mahinda Rajapaksa trophy in Colombo during his international debut.
The left-winger, who represented Bangladesh U-15, U-19 and U-23 teams, broke the deadlock with a nice placing shot after Uzbekistani Asror Gafurov and the Nigerian duo -- Sunday Udoh and Emeka Ogbugh -- failed to cash in on the early opportunities.
The 19-year-old forward, availing a through-pass from Sunday darted into the left box, dribbled past one defender before driving a right-footed angular shot into the far net in the 18th minute to give Saif a well deserved lead.
While Sunday and Emeka continued to miss more opportunities, former national player Nasirul Islam doubled the lead in the 41st minute with an overhead shot from close range.
After resumption, Muktijoddha were reduced to 10 men in the 66th minute and Saif looked in a relaxed mood. Cruciani then brought some changes to raise up the tempo again and substitute Sajjad Hossain made it 3-0 with a placing shot in the 81st minute after.
In the dying minute, Muktijoddha brought some excitement back in the game to pull back two goals within six minutes when Japanese Tetsuaki Misawa reimbursed a goal in the 87th minute with a ground shot and then made it 3-2 by converting a penalty in the penultimate minute of the four-minute added time.
The strike from Fahim indicates that the national forwards, who usually struggle to find the target in international matches, have been in good form in the ongoing tournament, with national forward Mehedi Hasan Royal and promising forward Mannaf Rabbi also finding the net in their respective matches.