Foreign forwards dominated the show in the Bangladesh Premier League as all three title contenders edged past their respective rivals yesterday.
Saif SC survived an initial scare against hosts Mohammedan in notching a 2-1 win, their first win coming in their second match at the Shaheed Dhirendranath Stadium in Cumilla.
At the Bangabandhu National Stadium, a first-half strike from Nixon Guylherme steered Chattogram Abahani to a 1-0 win over Arambagh while three-time league champions Sheikh Jamal defeated Muktijoddha Sangsad 2-0 courtesy of strikes from the Gambian duo Omar Jobe and Solomon King.
Of the seven goals struck across three matches yesterday, five foreigners scored between the day's first and last strikes from local players.
With two successive wins, Sheikh Jamal joined leaders Bashundhara Kingss, Abahani and Sheikh Russel on six points each, while Saif SC are in the second position with four points.
Mohammedan vs Saif SC
After stumbling against lightweights Rahmatganj in the opening match, Federation Cup runners-up Saif SC were hungry to prove a point but faced a tough challenge from Mohammedan, who lost to Saif on penalties in the Federation Cup quarterfinals.
On the back of a morale-boosting 3-0 win over Arambagh, the hosts got off to a fine start against Saif SC and came close twice to taking the lead. Midfielder Habibur Rahman Shohag was denied by the woodwork before striker Aminur Rahman Sajib wasted a chance inside the box in the 40th minute.
After surviving those close calls, Saif hit back and scored two goals within four minutes. Winger Arifur Rahman darted into the box and placed into the far post in the 44th minute before Nigeria's John Okoli doubled the margin with a solo effort two minutes into added time of the first-half.
Mohammedan pulled one back in the 61st minute as Japan's Uryu Nagata nodded home a Shohag free-kick, but they could not find a second.
Ctg Abahani vs Arambagh
After losing 1-2 to Sheikh Jamal in their first match, Chattogram Abahani got their bearings right and secured a hard-fought 1-0 win over Arambagh.
Ctg Abahani were deprived of a lead in the 26th minute when a flick from Rakib Hossain came off the crossbar before Brazil's Nixon Guylherme nicely controlled a Chinedu Mathew cross inside the box and drove home in the 30th minute.
Ctg also came close to widening the lead twice but Arambagh goalkeeper Abul Kashem Milon and defender Rasel Munshi thwarted good efforts from Charles Didier and Mathew in the second half.
Muktijoddha vs Sheikh Jamal
Sheikh Jamal carried their momentum into the second match and took a 38-minute lead when Omar Jobe brilliantly tapped home from between two players. In the 60th minute, Solomon King raced into the attacking third from midfield and fired home from outside the box.
Muktijoddha, who initially faced trouble in forming their due to financial constraints, pulled one goal back through Mehedi Hasan in stoppage time of the second half.