Saif Sporting Club's two new foreign recruits made an immediate impact as the newcomers beat defending champions Abahani 2-1 in the opening fixture of the second leg of the Bangladesh Premier League at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Wedson Anselme, the former Sheikh Jamal marksman who spent a season away in East Bengal, scored the opening goal from the spot in the first half before Charlie Sheringham, son of England legend Teddy Sheringham, doubled the lead with a glancing header in the second half as Saif Sporting Club sounded out a warning to all the title aspirants.
Although Sunday Chizoba, another new signing from the mid-season transfers, reduced the arrears with a late goal, Abahani's lacklustre performance, especially in midfield, meant they were condemned to their second defeat of the campaign, being pushed back to fourth position in the table with 24 points from 12 games.
Saif Sporting, on the other hand, moved up to second position with 25 points from 12 games.
With the second leg beginning after a four-week sabbatical, there were signs of rustiness in both sides' play, and there were very few open chances for either team. Saif Sporting, though, looked the more energetic of the two and enjoyed the lion's share of possession in the first half.
With Abahani's midfield almost non-existent, Jewel Rana and Matin Mia made some mazy runs, causing some serious trouble for the Abahani defence.
One of those darting runs from Jewel in the 33rd minute initiated the opening goal as the young winger's eventual cross was handled inside the box by Abahani's long-serving centre-back Samad Yussif. Wedson, who had made some long-range attempts earlier, stepped up confidently and picked the spot, marking his return to the Bangladesh football scene with a fine goal.
The Haitian was taken off in the second half in favour of Valencia Olaya as the game was stretched a bit, but Saif Sporting's domination continued. Sheringham, who was caught in an offside position quite a few times, justified his recruitment in the second transfer window with a perfect centre-forward's strike.
The 6 foot 1inch striker shrugged off his marker to nod home Jamal Bhuiyan's corner kick with a superb glancing header.
Abahani made some impression in the latter stages of the game with some desperate pressing and were rewarded with a penalty at the end of regulation time, which Sunday dispatched with aplomb. The Nigerian forward even had a header brush off the post deep into stoppage time, but eventually a 2-1 scoreline was no more than Saif Sporting deserved for their dominant display.
The win also helped the fortified Saif Sporting exact revenge for their 3-2 defeat against the same opposition in the first match of the first leg.
Meanwhile, league leaders Chittagong Abahani brushed aside bottom-of-the-table Farashganj SC with a 4-0 victory in the day's second match to extend their lead at the top to four points.
The port city outfit had a player sent off, but goals from Zahid Hossain, Tawhidul Alam Sabuj, Monsur Amin and Alison Udoka eased them to their ninth victory in 12 matches, taking the tally to 29 points.