A triumphant Mohammedan after nine years
Captain Souleymane Diabate engineered an extraordinary fightback as Mohammedan beat archrivals Abahani 4-2 on penalties following a 4-4 draw in regular and extra time during a topsy-turvy Federation Cup final in Cumilla yesterday to clinch their first title in nine years.
The Malian forward scored an unprecedented four goals in the final and then calmly converted the first spot-kick to set the Black and Whites on a path to glory as the Motijheel-based outfit raised their first Federation Cup trophy since 2009.
The final between the two most illustrious outfits in the country and the drama and excitement of the final, reminiscent of Argentina's FIFA World Cup final win against France in Qatar six months ago, more than paid dividends to the 10,000-plus that had braved the scorching heat and turned up at the Shaheed Dhirendranath Dutta Stadium.
Diabate conjured a superhuman performance, dragging his side back into the match every time Abahani seemed to have taken the game away. Whether or not this will serve as a resurgence for the Black and Whites, who have already enjoyed a sort of mini-revival under coach Alfaz Ahmed, remains to be seen, but the entertainment and competition provided by a rather unfancied Mohammedan surely gives hope for the future.
Diabate had come into the match as the joint-leading scorer of the tournament, but it did not look likely that he would add to that tally as Abahani went into half-time with a comfortable 2-0 lead. Faisal Ahmed Fahim had given the record 12-time champions a 17th-minute lead with a placed shot before Daniel Colindres doubled their margin two minutes before the break with a fine curling effort from the left.
Alfaz made three substitutions at half-time, and those changes made an instant impact as the Black and Whites found some verve in their attacks. Diabate reduced the arrears with a fine side volley after Abahani defender Alamgir Molla's header, intended to clear the danger, landed right next to the Malian forward in the 56th minute.
Diabate then took just five minutes to net the equaliser, getting a glancing header after Muzaffarov's initial volley was parried by Sohel.
With everything to play for again, the match stretched at both ends and Abahani, despite seeing their two-goal cushion wiped out in a flash, got their rhythm back in midfield.
Emeka Ogbugh rattled the woodwork after a cross from Rahmat Mia in the 64th minute before reclaiming the Sky Blues' lead two minutes later with a smashing attempt on a rebound following a shot from Fahim.
But Diabate seemed determined not to go down easily, orchestrating another moment of inspiration as he rose above to head home from Kamrul Islam's corner in the 83rd minute to force extra time.
There was enough drama left in store, with Mohammedan goalkeeper Sujon Hossain making two terrific saves and then limping off while Diabate's fourth from a spot-kick was cancelled out by a screamer from Rahmat Mia with two minutes of extra time remaining.
The indefatigable Diabate stepped up to take the first spot-kick in the shootout and gave confidence to his teammates, which rubbed off on substitute keeper Ahsan Habib Bipu, who saved against Colindres and Agusto's efforts to take the Black and Whites to the verge of glory.
Although Abahani goalkeeper Shahidul Alam Sohel saved Shahriar Emon's attempt, Mohammedan's young defender Kamrul Islam converted his team's fifth spot-kick, ensuring this epic final was not stretched to sudden death.