Young forward Faisal Ahmed Shitol came off the bench to rescue Abahani once again as the defending champions' bid for a hattrick of titles began with a 2-1 win over newcomers NoFel SC in the opening match of the 11th Bangladesh Premier League at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Shitol -- who also gave Abahani a winning start in the Independence Cup by coming off the bench and scoring a brace against Muktijoddha Sangsad -- was deployed up front with the match heading towards a 1-1 draw with eight minutes left.
And the 22-year-old repaid the faith, perfectly connecting with a Rubel Mia cross on the six-yard box, to seal victory three minutes from time. Although NoFel goalkeeper Appel Mahmud stopped the header with one hand, he did so from behind the goalline, prompting the referee to whistle for a goal.
Rubel had earlier put Abahani ahead in the eighth minute before Kamrul Islam evened things in stoppage time of the first half thanks to a lapse from Abahani's defenders.
"I'm really happy to repay the faith the coach placed on me," said former BKSP student Shitol, who seems habituated to scoring goals. He struck 14 goals in the 3rd Division Football League for BKSP before netting seven for Victoria SC in the Bangladesh Championship League. Before joining Abahani last season, Shitol played for now-relegated Feni Soccer and Uttar Baridhara Club.
"Playing in the starting eleven is the team management's decision. Every player dreams of starting games and I am no exception. If I get a chance in the playing eleven, I'll try to do something better because I will get more time on the field to show my potential," said Shitol, who played just his third match for Abahani, all as a substitute, this season.
Abahani coach Mario Lemos lavished praise on Shitol after admitting that his charges were a bit rusty.
"It is a chance for a player and Shitol grabbed it for the second time. Honestly he has been better in practice sessions and that is the most important thing. He has a good sense of positioning in the box and he is really smart in the danger-zone. He got one change and scored the goal," said Lemos, adding that Abahani needed two or three more games to adjust to the pace.
In the day's second match, newcomers Bashudhara Kings also made a winning start by handing a 1-0 defeat to last season's runners-up Sheikh Jamal DC under lights.
Brazilian forward Marcos Vinicius separated the sides in the 69th minute by scoring from a cut-back from Costa Rican forward Daniel Colindres. It was a keenly contested affair where both teams created some good opportunities but in the end, it was Independence Cup champions Bashundhra who had the last laugh.