Abahani bowed out of the AFC President's Cup following their second successive defeat in Group A when the Bangladesh professional league champions went 2-1 down to Regar-TadAZ of Tajikistan yesterday.
Abahani, who were overwhelmed 4-0 by Nepal Police Club in the group opener on Sunday, started the match at the MPPJ Stadium in Kuala Lumpur with three centre-backs and two changes in the line-up. Obaidur came in for rightback Siraji while attacking midfielder Ujjal made way for the additional defender Pradeep.
But the new 3-5-2 formation instead of the flat-four backline did not work much against the Central Asians, who went ahead after 15 minutes through Tajikistan international Ibrguim Rabimov, the midfielder who had troubled the Bangladesh national team in their previous three meetings.
Before a scanty crowd of 50 on a warm and dry evening, Abahani came back ten minutes later when Ghanaian forward Awdu Ibrahim levelled the score.
However, the Tajikistan champions, who had won the inaugural edition of the President's Cup in 2005, sealed the victory on the stroke of halftime when midfielder Jamshed Ismoilov found the back of the net.
Coach Amalesh Sen made no changes at the break but his side created two great chances in the second half to stay alive. But Ibrahim failed to capitalise on a couple of one-on-one situations against rival goalkeeper Farhot Yuldashev.
Leftback Waly Faisal and Ghanaian central defender Samad Yussif picked up yellow cards for the sky-blues.
Regar, who had six national stars in their roster including Odil Irgashev -- the diminutive winger who was the star of Tajikistan's inaugural AFC Challenge Cup triumph in Dhaka in 2006 -- and captain Khurshed Makhmudov, all but sealed a place in the semifinal with maximum six points after identical wins against Pakistan WAPDA and Abahani.
Regar will seek revenge when they take on Nepal Police, who are second in the group with four points after a 1-1 draw against WAPDA in the day's earlier match and had ousted the Tajik club from last year's semifinals, in their last group clash tomorrow.
Bottom-table Abahani meet WAPDA in a game of academic interest also tomorrow.
Biplab, Obaidur, Nazrul, Pradeep, Yussif, Waly, Joy, Abul, Mamun, Emily and Ibrahim.