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Secret behind Abahani’s goals-galore season

  • Published at 03:31 pm August 22nd, 2019
Abahani's Sohel Rana shoots at goal during their AFC Cup Inter-Zone semi-final first leg against April 25 Dhaka Tribune/Md Manik

Along with some beautiful goals, the Sky Blues scored the most number of goals (60) in the Bangladesh Premier League this season with an average of 2.5 goals per match, despite finishing second behind new champion Bashundhara Kings

Approximately two months after Mamunul Islam’s strike was voted AFC Cup Goal of the Week, his midfield partner Sohel Rana scored another outstanding goal against 4.25 SC Wednesday night to get enlisted among the top four candidates for this week’s Asia’s goal of the week. 

The crucial opening goal was leading the votes till Thursday night.

Along with some beautiful goals, the Sky Blues scored the most number of goals (60) in the Bangladesh Premier League this season with an average of 2.5 goals per match, despite finishing second behind new champion Bashundhara Kings. 

They also scored 16 goals in the AFC Cup this season, which is more than triple than the previous edition.

When queried as to what the secret is, both Mamunul and Sohel replied that it was because of the fact that their foreign and local attackers are performing well at the same time while growing a better understanding between them day by day. 

Abahani also put four goals past North Korean champion April 25, who conceded only twice in their previous six AFC Cup games.

“Both the foreign and local forwards are getting goals this season. Besides, the team spirit and good understanding between the attacking players also helped. The coach (Mario Lemos) also worked a lot with regards to scoring in training. We, the midfielders, have also built a tendency to get the goals with long-range efforts,” said Sohel at the club’s dormitory Thursday.

Abahani’s regular front three – Sunday Chizoba, Nabib Newaj Jibon and Kervens Belfort – scored 57 goals out of the club’s total of 91 goals in the BPL, Federation Cup, Independence Cup and the AFC Cup. 

Sunday usually played as center-forward with Jibon behind him and Kervens on the wing. 

When the main striker (Sunday) didn’t get goals, Jibon along with Mamunul, Sohel and Jewel scored in some of the crucial matches.

Having a series of defensive setbacks throughout the season, Abahani’s back-four gave away the most goals among the top four sides in the long league, but their scorers shone on numerous occasions and executed Lemos’s tactics to get some unprecedented results in the AFC Cup.

Lemos fielded an unusual 5-3-2 formation against 4.25, which was decided just a day before the game with Belfort and Sunday featuring up front, a rare combination seen throughout the season. 

Sunday had one of the best games this season with a second-half brace, out of which, the Nigerian said the first goal was better and “more intelligent”.

The Nigerian added, “You have more strength when your forwards and midfielders score goals. The secret is what we (Sunday-Jibon-Belfort) do in training, we repeat in the game. Our trainings made everybody quicker and move faster to go for the goals.”

Both Sunday and Jibon praised Belfort for having the ability to create scoring chances with fine vision, passes and crosses. 

Belfort, who has highest assists (nine) for the club in the league this season, was a happy man after helping Abahani in their historic campaign in the AFC Cup in his debut season in Bangladesh. 

The Haitian international, who played in the 2016 Copa America, said, “I like both scoring and assisting. I’m very happy when I give my teammates a good ball to score.”

Jibon have second most assists after Belfort including the one for Sohel’s first goal Wednesday. 

He was also top-scorer among the local booters in the league with 17 strikes, and three in the AFC Cup. 

Jibon said his confidence grew day by day and prior to his goal Wednesday, he had missed similar opportunities many times previously. 

The Bangladesh striker-turned-attacking midfielder for the club said, “The Korean side are a strong team, but there was no tension in me before the game. I’m glad that I took my chance. Now I have more confidence.”

Mamunul, who couldn’t play the first leg of the Inter-Zone semi-final due to calf injury, will also miss the second leg.

However, he did score some beautiful goals this season, including one from a direct corner kick in the late stages of the league. 

The midfielder reacted after Sohel’s goal was shortlisted for latest AFC Goal of the Week. 

“It’s good for the country’s football to be shortlisted for top goals in Asia. It revealed the standard of our players to the world that we also have the ability to score beautiful goals,” said Mamunul, while Belfort informed that he has seen Sohel score such long-range goals all the time in training.

Belfort suggested Sohel to try this more often during the matchdays. 

The Haitian is more than confident that Sohel’s goal would win the poll to become Asia’s best goal this week.

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