Abahani in final

March 24, 2009

Sports Reporter
Stand-in captain Biplab Bhattachariya saved a penalty to take Abahani into the final of the Citycell Super Cup with a goalless draw against Brothers Union in yesterday’s return-leg semifinal.
The Sky Blues moved ahead with an aggregate 3-2 victory after winning the first leg by the same margin but they had to pay heavy price on way to the final of the Tk two-crore tournament.
Amalesh Sen’s B. League champions, who will take on winners of the second semifinal between Dhaka and Chittagong Mohammedans, will miss both their holding midfielders Arif Khan Joy and Pranotosh Das through suspension.
Joy received his third yellow card in the competition while Pranotosh, who conceded a penalty in the first half injury time to be cautioned for the first time, was sent off in the second half stoppage time for his second bookable offence.
The Oranges, however, should consider themselves unfortunate for not scoring at least one goal after dominating the show.
Despite having superior ball possession, Wasim Iqbal’s boys failed to penetrate the tight Abahani backline brilliantly marshalled by Sujan and Ghana’s Samad Yussif. And whenever the ball got beyond the two centre-backs, it was Biplab who came out with his trusted gloves.
Otherwise shaky under the bar last time out during their 3-2 win, the national custodian foiled a series of rival crosses and corners either side of parrying Zahid’s penalty shot.
Tapu was felled by Pranotosh at the left side of the Sky Blues area on stroke of halftime to earn the spotkick from Qatari referee Abdur Rahman, but Biplab’s legwork denied a low shot from the 12-yard mark. Zahid then collected the rebound but failed to keep his header under the bar as the Abahani fans sighed breaths of relief.
The draw put an end to Abahani’s 14-match winning streak in the season but Abahani, in the first place, looked to play for a draw in absence of their mercurial playmaker Awudu Ibrahim.
Pranotosh got into the starting line-up to replace Ibrahim while Amalesh Sen left skipper Nazrul at the bench to give more attacking fullback Siraji his first start of the competition.
Brothers, who needed a two-goal win to go through, had Arup back at the right side of the midfield and decided to give Shakil a chance under the bar in place of Zia, who had a nightmarish first leg semifinal.
Abahani rushed early blood though and Emily drove a wild shot from close after six minutes. Emeka placed his effort into the side netting and Siraji forced a fine save by Shakil but Brothers got the better chances of the first half.
Mohammed Shakil broke an offside trap but his angled drive missed the far post before Mishu hit the sidebar in the 43rd minute. The ball came to the fullback off the wall after Zahid struck a powerful freekick and Ariful got the rebound only to fire over.
The missed penalty did not break the Oranges’ heart and they came back with fresh vigour. Abahani survived relentless pressure in the first 20 minutes after resumption and hit on the break but Shakil came out of his line to snatch the ball from Emeka’s feet in the 64th minute.
In the next two minutes, Abahani could have widened their one-goal lead but Mamun committed the cardinal sin. Emeka chipped a cross from the right to pick the midfielder unmarked at far post but Mamun’s weak drop-header went straight to Shakil’s hands.
Shakil kept Brothers in the game with a reflexive save a minute later when he held onto Emeka’s shot that deflected off a defender towards the keeper’s wrong side.
An orange tide swelled the Abahani goal in the last 20 minutes but inspired defending by the Abahani back four and Biplab kept all the rival efforts at bay.
Biplab palmed away a 30-yard stunner from Matiur Munna in the 75th minute before Ghanaian forward Henry Quay’s glancing header on a low cross by substitute Abdullah Parvez just missed the far post five minutes from time.
Abahani were reduced to ten men in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Pranotosh committed a clumsy challenge ten yards out of their area but there was little time left for Brothers to take any advantage.
Red card: Pranotosh (Abahani)
Yellow cards: Joy, Mamun (Abahani) and Ashraful, Shuvra (Brothers)
ABAHANI: Biplab, Siraji, Sujan, Samad, Waly, Abul (Zahed, 60th), Joy Pranotosh, Mamun, Emeka and Emily.
BROTHERS: Shakil, Ariful, Shuvra, Mishu, Arup (Liton, 78th), Zahid, Matiur Munna, Rikto (Ashraful, 62nd), Mohammed Shakil, Henry and Tapu (Parvez 83rd).

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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