Vol. 5 Num 1104 Mon. July 09, 2007  

B. League
Reds stay alive

Muktijoddha overcame the challenge of ten-man Khulna Abahani yesterday to take temporary lead in the B. League with a 4-2 win at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.

The home side, who drew 1-1 in their Khulna trip in the first leg, were held by an identical margin at the break with Tajul cancelling Mukti-joddha's early lead given by Moni.

The Reds, however, killed the game midway through the second half with Moroccan midfielder Brahim scoring with a sublime skill just after setting up one for Maruf.

Mamun inspired Khulna's fightback with another superb strike but Brahim also had a hand in Alfaz's goal that sealed the victory one minute from time to secure Muktijoddha's ninth victory.

Abu Yusuf's boys topped the table with 33 points after 17 games but Abahani and Mohammedan, on 32 and 29 points respectively, both have a couple of matches in hand.

In a bid to brighten their slim title hopes, Muktijoddha mounted early pressure and went ahead in the fifth minute after Alfaz and Brahim blew close chances.

Arman Aziz picked up Moni with a through from the middle and the captain, despite tight marking on the edge of the area, chipped a left footer past an onrushing Abahani goalie Iran.

The sky-blues from the southern port-city, who had upset local giants like Brothers and Abahani in the first leg, regrouped with neat passes in the middle and pushed their mighty opposition on the defensive.

A freekick just outside the Muktijoddha box in the 25th minute brought the visitors back when midfielder Tajul hammered the ball into goalkeeper Titumir's top left corner after Prashanta had pushed the dead ball low past the wall.

Mamun looked dangerous but Titumir's fine save and Ghanaian centre-back Ghansah's timely interception kept the Khulna forward at bay before halftime.

The Reds came out after the break with a purpose and following blank fires by Alfaz, Munna and Maruf, the pressure told in the 62nd minute.

After hard work at the right, Brahim released a teasing through that missed a sliding Alfaz in front of the goal but Maruf, rearing at the far post, slammed a left-footer into the back of the net for his maiden league goal.

A minute later, the holding midfielder was thoughtlessly fouled by Khulna's Khalid Saifullah, who was immediately sent off for his second bookable offence.

Each side missed a good chance before Brahim raced past half of the rival players including goalkeeper Iran to complete a 50-yard run and place the ball into an open goal to make it 3-1 in the 70th minute.

Mamun was equally brilliant to reduce the arrears seven minutes from time when the Abahani striker, who also scored against Muktijoddha back home, weaved through the whole opposition backline -- Saiful, Deen Mohammed, Ghansah and Hassan Al Mamun -- from the left flank before drilling a low drive into the far corner.

Muktijoddha held their nerves in the dying minutes and Afaz, seconds before being substituted, shrugged off Abahani captain Ashraf's challenge near the seven-yard box to control a square pass by Brahim and shoot home for his seventh league goal.

The defeat, Khulna Abahani's 10th in outings, saw them climb down to second-from bottom with 12 points.