Vol. 5 Num 980 Sat. March 03, 2007  

B. League
Goalless draw in eventful opener

The B.League got off to a moderate start as Abahani and Muktijoddha showed all the signs of early season fragility to share points in a goalless draw yesterday.

The opening match of the inaugural professional football league at the Bangabandhu National Stadium, however, was no less eventful with both sides reduced to ten men after 49 minutes.

Abahani midfielder Abul Hossain pushed rival defensive medio Arman Aziz in retaliation after the latter punched him in a mid pitch scuffle and referee Tayeb Hassan did not hesitate at all to give both the players marching order.

Both the sides began cautiously and Muktijoddha rushed early blood when Arman's curling freekick from the left was spectacularly kept out by the experienced sky-blues keeper Biplab in the sixth minute.

Abahani, who had to field an all local side as the International Transfer Certificates of three Argentine booters were not available, hit back three minutes later. Muktijoddha goalie Titumeer lost a cross on the edge of the area, giving rival fullback Siraji a shot at the open goal the 25-yard volley was headed out from the goalline by Rajani for a corner.

The Reds, playing their home match, only threatened from setpieces and skipper Moni forced another fine save by Biplab from a 35-yard freekick in the 15th minute. Their domination soon fizzled out as their overweight strikers Alfaz and Moni were successfully handcuffed by a very tight Abahani backline.

The sky-blues came alive with strings of crisp passes and began to slice the rival defence often, but lack of pace and poor finishing denied them from taking a deserved lead in the first half.

Their Argentine coach Diego Cruciani had said before the match that the players' fitness was 50 percent and it was proved when Ujjal committed an unpardonable mistake in the 43rd minute.

Playing behind the lone striker, Ujjal perhaps had one eye on the assistant referee's flag when Pranotosh set him up inside the box. And the puzzled Abahani attacker, who just needed to lob the advancing keeper after being played onside, took a feeble volley straight into Titumeer's gloves much to the frustration of a 12,000-strong crowd.

Nazrul then headed an Ujjal freekick just wide of the post on the brink of the breather.

Although Abahani enjoyed superior ball possession and won plenty of midfield tackles with Pranotosh working hard, they failed to finish from better positions with Pranotosh, Joy and Zahed Parvez being the guilty.

Muktijoddha almost snatched three points against run of play through their substitute pair when Enamul raced past Waly at the right flank and cut the ball near across the penalty spot but Kanchan's header went inches above the crossbar in the injury time.

"My team played well in the last 30 minutes of the first half but after the red cards, both teams played untidy," told Cruciani after the match.

"We created chances, especially Ujjal's miss in the dying moments of the first half was unfortunate.

"It is certain that our plans were hampered in absence of the Argentine players but it was a good experience for the local boys. Also, it would be handy for the young striker and the attacking midfielder in the long run," the former Bangladesh national coach added.

Muktijoddha coach Abu Yusuf accepted the result as it was the first match of the season.

"Our team started badly but we recovered towards the end. The main problem we faced was the lack of stamina of my players," said Yusuf.

Earlier, Sports Adviser Tapan Chowdhury declared the 11-team meet open following an unimaginative opening ceremony featuring march past of ex players and young kids in team jerseys followed by dance and songs repetitively used by the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) on all special occasions.

BFF president SA Sultan, general secretary Anwarul Hoque Helal, other federation high-ups and an Asian Football Confederation delegation headed by its general secretary Paul Mony were also present.

The day's events were rounded off with a concert by famous singer Ayub Bachchu.

Red cards: Arman Aziz (Muktijoddha) and Abul (Abahani)

Yellow cards: Parvez Babu, Kanchan (Muktijoddha) and Pranotosh (Abahani)

Muktijoddha: Titumeer, Hassan Al Mamun, Rajani, Ghansah, Parvez Babu, Arman Aziz, Munna, Arman, Saiful (Kanchan), Moni and Alfaz (Enamul).

Abahani: Biplab, Siraji (Anwar), Nazrul, Pradeep, Waly, Abul, Joy, Pranotosh, Zahid Parvez, Ujjal (Abdullah Parvez) and Emily (Tipu).

A combo picture shows (L) Sports Adviser to the caretaker government Tapan Chowdhury (3rd from R) releasing balloons to inaugurate the first-ever professional football league, B.League, in the country while (R) Muktijoddha midfielder Saiful Islam (R) tries in vain to fell Abahani attacker Abul with a tackle from behind during the opening match at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday. PHOTO: STAR