Vol. 5 Num 295 Sat. March 26, 2005  

Mukti leave it late

Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra rode on late strikes to move into the final of the Independence Day Gold Cup Football Tournament when they handed Abahani a 2-0 defeat in the first semifinal at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.

The five thousand holiday crowd watched the showdown between two of local football's big guns almost roll into a shootout before Muktijoddha's veteran Ghanaian Charles Ghansha put the Reds ahead in the 75th minute. And in the 82nd minute Saifur Rahman Moni ensured the Sky Blues' elimination.

Muktijoddha now meet the winners of tomorrow's second semifinal between Premier League champions Brothers Union and Mohammedan Sporting Club in the March 30 final.

The giants' clash hardly provided any attractive football in the first 45 minutes as both teams committed sloppy passes.

Muktijoddha went into the match without three key players who were all suspended and also that applied to their inspirational coach Shafiqul Islam Manik, who is serving a two-match ban on disciplinary ground.

But the absence of playmaker Arman Mia meant there was little or no supply to their forwards Kanchan and Moni.

On the other hand, Abahani took control of the midfield and although they appeared to be more impressive than in earlier matches, it was not enough to break though Muktijoddha's solid defence marshalled by Rajani Kanta Barman.

Abahani also blocked the threat posed by long throw specialist Belal Ahmed, whose missile-like throws had terrorised many sides in the tournament.

The popular Dhanmondi outfit's only real chance to break the deadlock came in the 65th minute but substitute Asif's right-footed salvo was brilliantly saved by custodian Titumir, who stood under the bar in absence of suspended Aminul.

That opportunity triggered Muktijoddha into action when the lanky Ghansha, who was given a midfield role instead of his customary defensive position, received a ball from Moni in the danger zone and within a spilt-second unleashed a powerful left-footer to put his side ahead after Abahani defender Shawkat failed to clear a Firoz Mahmud Titoo's chip.

And before Abahani could even settle a well-built striker Moni got a ball into the box from a Amin Rana throw and dribbled past unheralded Abahani right-back Nurul Amin Shipon before firing a fierce grounder that left custodian Nizamuddin helpless.

Muktijoddha's Ghanaian recruit Charles Ghansha (3rd from L) being congratulated by teammates after he had opened the scoring against Abahani in the first semifinal of the Independence Day Gold Cup football tournament yesterday. PHOTO: STAR