Champion Abahani Limited were officially handed the Bangladesh Premier League trophy after the Sky Blues concluded their top-flight campaign with a goalless draw against Chittagong Abahani Limited at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka Thursday. This is Abahani's sixth professional league title out of 10 editions and they confirmed the championship with a game in hand after beating runners-up Lt. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club in the previous match.
The traditional crowd-puller emerged as unbeaten champion in the last edition but this time around, they conceded two defeats in 22 games to end the campaign with 52 points, five more than second-placed Sheikh Jamal.
After being crowned Federation Cup champion earlier last year, the double winner went through amazing transformation in the second phase. They finished the first phase at third place but registered nine consecutive wins in the second leg to climb to the top.
Around 100 Abahani supporters gathered at the BNS to celebrate the title with the team. There were fireworks and band party to celebrate the victory. Some of the senior players brought their families to the stadium, like the club's most experienced footballer Prantosh Kumar Das and goalkeeper Shahidul Alam Sohel.
Prantosh is the only member in the current squad who has been part of all six title-winning sides. The veteran midfielder spent 12 years at the Abahani den in his long playing career. He also won the Dhaka League title with Brothers Union in 2005.
The 36-year old versatile player, who was often seen playing in defence, began his career with a second-division club from Malibagh in 1996 and made his top-flight debut in the same year, joining Arambagh Krira Sangha. After spending a season at Badda Jagoroni Sangsad, Pranotosh Kumar Das joined Abahani in 2002. He moved to Brothers for a season before returning to Abahani. He has stayed with the Sky Blues since then.
Prantosh made his international debut in 2008 during the Merdeka Cup in Malaysia and his last match in a red and green jersey was against Maldives in a friendly in 2016. The long-serving and hard-working midfielder wants to feature in at least one more season with Abahani before calling it a day.
"Many players spend their whole life only for a premier league trophy but very few manage to achieve it. I consider myself lucky to win six titles and that too for my favourite club. Every trophy was important to me, especially the hat-trick of titles a few years ago," said an ecstatic Prantosh after the game, accompanied by his wife and six-year old son.
Farashganj's survival hope alive with unexpected win
Lt. Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club conceded a surprising 3-1 defeat at the hand of bottom-ranked Farashganj Sporting Club in their last BPL match of the 2016-17 season at BNS. The result greatly benefited the Farashganj outfit in their bid to avoid relegation, leaving their Old Dhaka counterpart Rahmatganj Muslim Friends Society with an uphill task in their last game as they must beat rising powerhouse Saif Sporting Club Saturday to stay in the top-flight league.
Sheikh Jamal only lost twice in 21 matches before yesterday’s tie. They thrashed the same opponent, Farashganj, 5-0 in the first phase on October 13 last year where their Nigerian striker Raphael Onwrebe netted four goals. Raphael was not in the squad due to hamstring injury and he was among five playing XI members who were dropped for different reasons.
Farashganj stayed at the bottom of the 12-team points table for the majority of the time in the league and Thursday's win put them one place up to 11th with 17 points, sending Rahmatganj to the bottom with 15 points and a game in hand. Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra have the same number of points as Farashganj but the former are 10th due to a better goal difference. Only one team will get relegated to the second-tier league.
As the title was already decided earlier, Sheikh Jamal players seemed a bit relaxed on the pitch from the beginning and their soulless defensive performance saw them leak three goals within 35 minutes. Chinedu Mathew opened the scoring in the 24th minute before the Nigerian forward doubled the lead from a penalty at the half-hour mark. Mohammad Alamgir made it 3-0 in the 35th minute taking advantage of a shaky defence before Gambian forward Solomon Kanform pulled one back from the penalty spot in the 90th minute. Along with the defence, goalkeeper Mohammad Nayeem's response towards conceding the third goal was in question.
Sheikh Jamal's recently appointed head coach Mahbub Hossain Roksy blamed injuries and suspensions of key players for the defeat, adding that the players were a bit “relaxed” as the game had little impact on the title race. He said some of his key players could not play due to card issues without specifying any, but according to the BFF, only one player - forward Nurul Absar - was suspended for receiving cards in the previous matches. Players like Yeasin Khan, Raphael, Zahed Parvez and Mezbahul Manik were not even on the bench.
Farashganj head coach Mohidur Rahman Miraj, who joined the club after the first phase, told Dhaka Tribune that his players were spirited and more determined before taking to the field for the “do-or-die” match in order to avoid relegation. He gave an example of their win over champion Dhaka Abahani to clear away any doubt, admitting that the win was “unexpected” at the same time. Farashganj scored a total of 16 goals and conceded 35 goals, including four wins and five draws, in 22 matches.
Abahani 0 0 Ctg Abahani
Sk Jamal 1
(Solomon 90-P) 3 Farashganj
(Mathew 24, 30-P, Alamgir 35)
Mohammedan v Brothers, 4:30pm
BJMC v Muktijoddha, 6:45pm
Both the games will be held at BNS