Abahani Limited emerged as the champion of the Bangladesh Premier League for the record sixth time after they edged Lt. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club 2-0 to confirm their second straight title with a game in hand at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka Friday. The club dedicated the title to their lifelong coach and former player Amalesh Sen, who passed away in October last year.
Anything but a win would not have been enough but veteran defender Nasir Uddin Chowdhury once again proved his worth in a crucial match by scoring the all-important goal within the half-hour mark before in-form Sunday Chizoba's superb strike in injury time sealed Abahani's 16th win in the league this season.
An emotional Abahani football manager Satyajit Das Rupu said after the win, "We badly miss the presence of Amalesh da. If he was alive he would have been the happiest man. The trophy is dedicated to him.
"It was a challenging season for us after some of our key players from the previous season left the club at the beginning of the league campaign. Everybody doubted if Abahani could win the title again but I always had faith in my team and they repaid my faith."
This was Abahani’s ninth straight win in the league, which ensured their sixth professional league title out of 10 editions. They now have 51 points from 21 matches while second-placed Sheikh Jamal have 47 points from the same number of outings as the Sky Blues.
After finishing the first phase at third place, the Dhanmondi giant conceded a narrow defeat against Saif Sporting Club and since then, they won every single match to rise to the top of the 12-team points table, that too without Serbia-born Croatian head coach Drago Mamic. Sunday made notable impact after joining the club in the second phase. He netted nine goals in 10 games.
Abahani missed the service of their two regular players, left-back Waly Faisal and national winger Rubel Miy, due to suspension while Ghanaian defender Samad Yusuf had to make way for Nigerian forward Emeka Darlington.
Youngsters Saad Uddin and Atiqur Rahman Fahad also returned to the starting XI.
The Sky Blues dominated the game from the very beginning and took the lead in the 24th minute. Experienced defender Nasir yet again proved his excellence in set-pieces as his sliding header from a Jewel Rana cross from the right flank gave no option to the Sheikh Jamal goalkeeper Mohammad Nayeem.
Sunday went agonisingly close to doubling the lead in the 57th minute when the Nigerian outpaced his marker to break into the net before firing the ball inches over the crossbar.
The Nigerian striker sealed victory in injury time with a spectacular strike. After receiving a short pass, the Nigerian striker broke into the box, dodged past Sheikh Jamal defender Khan Mohammad Tara before taking a brilliant right-footed strike that curved into the top right corner.
Despite the final whistle being a few seconds away, the enthusiastic Abahani supporters, who came in their hundreds amid a festive mood, couldn't hold their patience and entered the field through the southeastern corner.
Meanwhile, Farashganj Sporting Club are close to getting relegated from the league after conceding a 1-0 defeat against Brothers Union in the day's first match at the same venue. The bottom-placed Farashganj will face Sheikh Jamal in their last match Thursday. Congolese forward Siyo Zunapio netted the winning goal in the 39th minute.
ROLL OF HONOUR
Season Champion Runners-up
Sheikh Jamal Muktijoddha
Sheikh Russell Sheikh Jamal
Sheikh Jamal Abahani
Sheikh Jamal Sheikh Russell
Abahani Chittagong Abahani
Abahani To be decided
(Nasir 24, Sunday 90+1) 0 Sk Jamal
(Siyo 39) 0 Brothers
Ctg Abahani v Saif Sporting, 4:30pm
Muktijoddha v Mohammedan, 6:45pm
Both the games will be held at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka