Lemos: Abahani relishing 4.25 challenge
Dhaka: Abahani Limited Dhaka's gameplan for their 2019 AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semi-final against 4.25 is simple - not allow the DPR Korea side to play their brand of football.
The two teams go head-to-head in the first leg at Dhaka's Bangabandhu National Stadium on Wednesday with head coach Mario Lemos saying six-time Bangladesh Premier League champions Abahani determined to continue their fairy-tale run in the AFC Cup.
It is the first time a club from Bangladesh has progressed to the AFC Cup's Inter-Zone Semi-finals but Lemos said they are not yet satisfied.
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“I’m really happy for the club as well as the country which is actually a cricket crazy nation. But we are still not satisfied. We want to compete against the best in Asia.
"So, I’m really looking forward to the match. Hopefully, it’s a good match and people come to see the match. I hope we can give a good show to the supporters," said Lemos, who hails from Portugal.
Lemos said Abahani are highly confident of their chances, especially after progressing from a difficult group.
“Playing the champions of the ISL, I-League and Nepal was a great experience. They were all tough teams. It made us realise that we can compete against the best teams in this region. It gave a lot of motivation to the players.”
Abahani sealed their place in the semi-finals in dramatic fashion as Masih Saighani's stoppage time header broke the goalless deadlock with Minerva Punjab on Matchday Six to secure the Bangladesh club first place in Group E.
While he identified Haitian striker Kervens Belfort (pictured below, right) and goalkeeper Shahidul Sohel as key players in his team's surge to the Inter-Zone Semi-finals, Lemos said further progress depends on how the team performs collectively.
"Against a team from DPR Korea, you would need the team to step up collectively. If we play well as a team, individuals will shine too.”
Lemos is also fully aware that 4.25 will prove to be tough opposition, especially with their excellent AFC Cup track record.
"They have been in this situation three times in a row while it’s our first semi-final appearance. But anything can happen in football.
“We are a good team. We won’t allow 4.25 to play their brand of football in Bangladesh. We will not allow them space on the field. We will also play our brand of football.”
Lemos disagreed that 4.25 are the favourites.
“We are here because we have some quality. Let’s not forget that it’s a team that topped the group. So, we definitely are a quality side and we believe in ourselves. Besides, we have worked very hard and are working very hard.”
Saighani, whose goals against Minerva took Abahani into the semi-finals, has left the club but Lemos will have Egyptian defender Alaaeldin Nasr Elmagraby Eissa and Korea Republic defensive midfielder Lee Tae-min to count on.
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