Abahani moved into the final of the Grameenphone Super Cup with a 5-4 penalty shootout win over Muktijoddha Sangsad after regulation time of the semifinal match ended in a 2-2 draw at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
The Sky Blues will now face holders Mohammedan in the final on Saturday at the same venue and it will be the first title-clash between the two old rivals since their battle in the final of the inaugural Super Cup in 2009.
Last edition's runners-up Abahani gambled with injured goalkeeper Shahedul Alam Sohel as first-choice keeper Ziaur Rahman was ruled out of game with a wrist injury. Sohel, who himself was nursing a knee injury, stood tall under the bar and foiled the spot-kick from Muktijoddha's Alamgir Kabir Rana to book his side a berth in the final of the Tk one-crore tournament.
However, Sohel and his teammates were much indebted to striker Mohammad Robin, who kept the team in the hunt by scoring two spectacular goals to level the margin.
Injuries were the main concern for Abahani before the match, and the Sky Blues were forced to bring three more changes to the starting eleven, apart from a fielding a bandaged Sohel under the bar.
Mehdi Hasan Ujjal and Yussuf Aminu did their best to fill the void in the midfield. Ahahani would have taken lead though within the first five minutes had not Ghanaian striker Awudu Ibrahim squandered two easy chances inside the box.
Muktijoddha Sangsad gradually asserted more control over the midfield and came close to scoring in the 10th minute when Mithun Chowdhury was presented with a low cross from Alamu Bukola, but the national striker saw his diving header miss the near post by a whisker.
However, Bukola gave the Reds a 12th-minute lead availing a fumble from goalkeeper Sohel and two defenders. Bukola slipped while trying to control a through pass from Matiur Munna, but the striker made sure he put it in the back of the net by striking the ball while lying prone on the ground.
Abahani badly wanted some positive contribution from Ibrahim, but the Ghanaian striker once again disappointed before Robin finally brought them back to the game in the 20th minute.
Ibrahim hurled a long throw-in inside the box for Frank who pushed the ball towards Robin and the former national striker made space on his right to place the ball past the near post giving no chance to goalkeeper Biplob to react.
Abahani then came close to taking the lead twice; once Frank failed to beat Biplob from a one-on-one situation and later Robin struck wide from close range.
Muktijoddha put more pressure after the resumption and went ahead on the 48th minute through Zahed Parvez.
Bukola ran down the left to advance into the box and released a clever lob from the touch-line for Zahed, who produced a flying side-volley to find the back of the Abahani net.
Abahani were rescued once again by Robin as the marksman ran down the left flank and dodged defender Nasir outside the box and midfielder Zahed inside the dangerzone to advance towards the six-yard box before curling the ball into the far post.
The rest of the ninety minutes and the added thirty minutes failed to produce any score, as the game rolled into the tiebreaker where one decent save from Sohel paved their way to the final.
ABAHANI: Shahedul Alam Sohel, Pranotosh Kumar, Arup Kumar Badya, Abdullah Parvez (Alfaz Ahmed), Mamun Miah, Ashraf Mahmud Lincon, Mohammad Robin (Abul Hossain), Twum Frank, Samad Yussif, Cletus Blamo and Awudu Ibrahim (Shakawat Hossain Rony).
MUKTIJODDHA: Biplob Bhattacharjee, Rajani Kanta Barman (Mofazzal Hossain Saikat), Motiur Munna, Mithun Chowdhury (Mohammad Rony), Alamu Bukola, Yeamin, Munna, Emmanuel Dami, Arman Aziz, Zahed Parvez (Rajon Mia), Alamgir Kabir and Nasiruddin Chowdhury.
Referee: Hannan Miron