Falling giants Mohammedan all but escaped relegation in the Bangladesh Premier League after a comfortable 3-1 win over NoFeL SC at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
The Black and Whites were staring at relegation at the end of the first leg, staying just above bottom-placed Team BJMC with only six points from 12 matches. However, after yesterday’s result, they are almost in safe zone in eighth position of the 13-team league with 23 points from 21 matches. The Motijheel-based outfit still need another three points from three matches to mathematically ensure they will be out of reach of the bottom two teams.
Following their own record-equalling 4-0 victory over archrivals Abahani, Mohammedan smashed newcomers NoFeL SC, who had won the first-leg meeting 1-0, with striking duo Souleymane Diabate and Toklish Ahmed sharing the three goals.
Mohammedan took the lead in the ninth minute, with Diabate beating NoFeL goalkeeper Saiful Islam Khan with his second effort before Toklish headed in a free-kick from Zahid Hasan Emily in the 13th minute.
NoFeL SC hit back in the 17th minute when Ashraful Islam chipped the ball over Mohammedan’s advancing goalkeeper Pappu Hossain from the right flank. However, Diabate made sure of Mohammedan’s sixth win after converting a spot-kick in the 42nd minute following a push on him by opposition defender Eleta Benjamin.
It is interesting to note the rise of struggling Mohammedan, especially in the second leg under the guidance of English coach Sean Lane, who helped the Motijheel-based outfit secure 17 points from nine matches with five victories along with two draws and two defeats.
Before Lane’s arrival, Emily, Toklish, Yousuf Sifat and other senior players used to warm the bench watching the team suffer consecutive defeats, but things changed since then as Lane drafted these players into the starting eleven in each of the second leg matches, and getting immediate results.
“I don’t have any idea why they did not play matches of the first leg, but I felt they are the best choices in the starting eleven. Emily is still a very clever player and intelligent with the ball. Sifat has a nice left foot while Toklish is a goal-scorer. They needed some confidence and I ensured that,” Lane said, adding that those players are helping him in training more than he asks of them.
“The players are giving everything and working hard in training. They even lost weight from two to seven kilograms. They are now more fit than before and I am pleased with them,” said Lane, who believes his side should have got five more points in the second leg against Brothers Union and Sheikh Jamal DC.
Meanwhile, in the day’s other match, Brothers Union secured a valuable point playing out a goalless draw against visitors Muktijoddha Sangsad. With the outcome, Muktijoddha Sangsad raised their tally to 23 points from 21 outings to stay behind Mohammedan while Brothers Union leapfrogged to 11th position with 17 points from 21 matches.