Favourites Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club and Sheikh Russel KC began their Grameenphone Federation Cup campaign on a winning note defeating their respective rivals in Group C encounters at two separate venues yesterday.
A first-half strike from Nigerian Femi Orunnini helped Sheikh Jamal beat promotee Agrani Bank SC 1-0 at the Bangabandhu National Stadium while Sheikh Russel KC defeated Victoria SC 2-0, thanks to first-half strikes from Vitus Mbaa and Siankam Emako at the Birshreshtha Shaheed Mostafa Kamal Stadium.
Having secured the maximum three points from their first games, both professional football league sides are in an advantageous position to qualify for the last eight. Promotees Victoria SC and Agrani Bank, teams from the second-tier professional football league, appeared to be no threats for the giants, who have been playing with four foreign booters while the minnows are not allowed to field any foreign players.
The foreign recruits made the differences at both venues with all three goals over the two matches coming from them. Though they dominated the proceedings, both Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel squandered a lot of chances through their shaky forward line-up and they had to be content with narrow victories in their openers.
At the BNS, having lost most of their star players to Abahani and Muktijoddha Sangsad this season, Bangladesh League champions Sheikh Jamal looked unimpressive on the field. Though they enjoyed the lion's share of ball procession there was something lacking among the players as no rhythm, speed or communication within the three departments could be noticed.
Last season's runners-up Sheikh Jamal were lucky to find the back of the Agrani Bank net even once as their foreign and local strikers seemed to join in a rally of squandering chances.
Unmarked Femi headed an Atiqur Rahman Meshu cross from the left home in the 25th minute and later they created at least four more scoring chances but Brazilian Everton, Nigerian Assogba Allen, Meshu failed to convert any of them.
“Certainly I am not happy with the performance as the boys should create more chances in the game but they could not do it. They could not even avail the opportunities they created,” said Sheikh Jamal coach Shafiul Bari Titu adding that the team suffered much when Nigerian Kester Akon left the field sustaining an injury to his head from an aerial clash with the opposition goalkeeper in the 14th minute of the game.
But the former BFF coach is hopeful of putting up a decent show in the next matches as he rested two proven foreign recruits in the game in a bid to observe his local players.
At the BSSMKS, Nigerian Vitus put Sheikh Russel ahead in the 11th minute while Cameroonian Emako doubled the lead in the 26th minute but they could not extend their margin.
“We should have won the game with a margin of 8 to 9 goals but we could not do so because of the failure of strikers as well as the uneven pitch,” said Sheikh Russel captain Biplob Bhattacharjee.