Vol. 5 Num 1082 Sun. June 17, 2007  

B. League
Tasty derby drawn

Abahani and Mohammedan did a favour to football when they brought back excitement to the ground after a long time.

The two perennial foes shared points in a goalless draw in the crucial B. League match yesterday and although the result may have hampered their championship race, the dying game witnessed the high voltage drama that was the trademark of any clash between the two heavyweights.

It was not the usual electric atmosphere of a houseful Bangabandhu National Stadium but before the season's highest attendance -- a 20,000-strong crowd -- the Dhaka derby came alive and both sides had a goal disallowed in the second half, leading to arguments all around the venue.

"It was an entertaining game and I think one side should have won for the crowd. I am sure they have enjoyed a tense Abahani-Mohammedan match after a long period," told Mohammedan coach Shafiqul Islam Manik, whose side shared the lead with Abahani on 23 points.

Although Abahani have played one match less to Mohammedan's 13, Manik has the comfort of having played against three big names at the start of the second leg.

After heavy seasonal rain, the pitch was heavy and slow but that could not stop the title contenders from being lively.

Farhad, who won a first team place in absence of suspended Nigerian striker Emeka, rushed early blood when he got behind the rival backline chasing a freekick by Kamal. But the former Abahani forward's left footer from a tight angle ran wide at the far post after five minutes.

Three minutes later, Kamal pulled off a stunning save to foil a superb combined effort between Abahani's debutant foreign pair Obi Mikel John and Souleyman Nchouwat. Mikel picked up the Cameroonian 'Djibril Cisse lookalike' with a diagonal pass but Nchouwat's overhead shot was headed out off the goalline by Kamal after Liberian custodian Paul James was beaten.

The rest of the first half was all sky-blues but they clearly failed to find a solution to keep the ball on target. Abahani enjoyed superior ball possession and put tremendous pressure on the rival three-man central defence, which conceded a series of freekicks just outside the area.

Abahani made nothing off the setpieces while long-range efforts by Ghanaian Ibrahim and Nigerian Mikel hardly bothered a panicky James.

Mohammedan came close to score from a rare counter attack on the stroke of halftime but Zahid's chipped shot from the right after a long throw by Nigerian centre-back Peter Odafe kissed the crossbar.

Abahani began the second half with fresh vigour and Ibrahim shot the ball into the sidenetting in the first minute before the indefatigable Ghana attacker set a chance for Ujjal, who dribbled one defender but fired wide from inside.

Abahani, who had won the first leg match 1-0, took off holding midfielder Pranotosh to push a more attacking Abul but Mohammedan picked up the momentum midway through.

Substitute Belal, famous for his powerful and long throws, did not get a good grip on the ball because of wet conditions but his 70th minute throw unsettled the otherwise tight Abahani defence. After a partial clearance, Zahid hammered the ball into the roof of the net but the assistant referee's flag was up for a foul as goalkeeper Biplab had one eye poked by a Mohammedan finger.

Three minutes later, Zahid was denied by the woodwork again when his header on Farhad's corner hit the underside of the crossbar before Wali kicked the ball out of their area.

An Ujjal corner then ran through a forest of legs as Mohammedan made a great escape, seconds before substitute Emily found the net with a diving header seven minutes from time.

Emily, who replaced Nchouwat four minutes earlier, outran James for a low centre by Zahed to nod the ball into the near post but referee Mansoor Azad had spotted a foul by the Abahani striker on the keeper although his assistant kept the flag down.

In the injury time, Abul's cross ran harmlessly across the Mohammedan goal as no Abahani player could get the final touch.

"It was unfortunate to see Emily's goal disallowed," said a furious Abahani manager Satyajit Das Rupu. "The goalie was nowhere near Emily so how could it be a foul?" questioned the former national midfielder.

"We controlled the game and our opponents only threatened from two setpieces. Had Nchouwat's early attempt not been cleared off the line, it would have been a different result. We created ample chances but the finishing was poor as usual," he said adding that Joy was booked early for a simple foul so he could never go for a hard tackle again.

"The same referee did not bring out the card when Mohammedan players committed serious fouls."

Mohammedan coach Manik, who had criticised the referee heavily after their 1-1 draw against Muktijoddha last week, however, refused to comment.

"Ask the referee, everyone saw what happened today. To me, we have been robbed off a goal," Manik said.

Yellow cards: Joy, Ibrahim (Abahani) and Zahid (Mohammedan)

Biplab, Siraji, Nazrul, Pradip, Wali, Ujjal, Pranotosh (Abul, 56th minute), Joy, Mikel (Zahed 68th), Ibrahim and Nchouwat (Emily, 79th).

Mohammedan: James, Arif, Odafe, Biplab (Belal, 46th), Zahid, Kamal, Sharif, Divine, Paul, Farhad and Rony (Mithu, 58th).

Fans Are Back For A Change: (L) A partial view of the Bangabandhu National Stadium during the blood and thunder B.League clash between Abahani and Mohammad yesterday. (R) Mohammedan's Nigerian forward Paul Mac hurdles over a sliding tackle by Abahani left-back Wali Faisal. PHOTO: STAR