Chittagong Abahani continued their spectacular start to the Bangladesh Premier League with a 3-1 victory over Sheikh Russel KC -- their fourth win in four matches -- on a muddy and sluggish pitch at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
The early pace setters grabbed the opening goal in the 11th minute, courtesy a header from Nigerian striker Afeez Oladipo. Sheikh Russel, who came into the match on the back of a 1-2 defeat against Sheikh Jamal following a win and a draw, were fortunate to grab an equaliser from an own goal seven minutes after the restart. But the dominant port city side were ahead again, thanks to another expert header from Oladipo before Tawhidul Alam Sabuz sealed the victory late in the match.
The victory put Chittagong Abahani solely on top of the table with 12 points. Sheikh Jamal DC, who have also maintained a perfect record thus far, can catch them if they manage to beat Rahmatganj MFS today.
The start to the league this season has coincided with the last stages of monsoon. Even though monsoon is nearing its end, there seems to be no respite from continuous downpour, which has had a negative impact on the teams' performances. Players struggle to control the ball or race with it, and passes often fail to find their intended target. The overall quality of the game has been badly affected, yet some teams have managed to get a grip of things better than others.
Chittagong Abahani, with former national team coach Saiful Bari Titu at the helm and an array of match-winners at their disposal, seemed to have gotten the better of the elements.
The port city side grabbed the lead in the 11th minute when skipper Zahid Hossain's corner kick was turned in with a bullet header by Oladipo.
Sheikh Russel were unlucky not to get the equaliser on 25 minutes when Dawda Ceesay's left-footed free-kick from the edge of the box brushed the outside of the far post, but they found luck on their side seven minutes after restart as Chittagong Abahani defender Udoka headed the ball into his own net. The Nigerian recruit, while trying to get the ball back to the keeper, headed it onto the ground, but misdirected it into the net as goalkeeper Ashraful Islam Rana had rushed out to gather the ball.
However, Oladipo restored Chittagong Abahani's lead with a fine glancing header in the 73rd minute, turning in a perfectly-weighted cross from Mansur Amin.
Tawhidul Alam Sabuz then sealed the victory with a fine solo effort in the 82nd minute while grabbing his fourth goal in four games. The former national team forward ran on to a through-ball from Zahid before chipping the onrushing Sheikh Russel goalkeeper while losing his footing. The ball stopped in the middle of the box, but Sabuz had enough time to get back on his feet before slotting it into the back of the net.