Lemos: Confident Abahani ready for 4.25 test
Dhaka: Abahani Limited Dhaka’s fairytale campaign in the 2019 AFC Cup has lasted longer than most would have imagined.
The Bangladeshi club surprised many on their way to the Inter-Zone Semi-finals and topped that when they, again against expectations, defeated DPR Korea's 4.25 SC 4-3 in last week's first leg in Dhaka.
The run, as far as head coach Mario Lemos is concerned, mustn't stop as he is dreaming of Abahani playing the Inter-Zone final on home soil despite 4.25's formidable AFC Cup record on home soil.
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“There is no doubt that the next match will be the toughest match. 4.25 are a very good team. They showed it here in Dhaka and have been unbeaten at home in the tournament as well," said Lemos.
The Portuguese, however, is counting on the momentum from Abahani's first leg exploits to spur his team at the Kim Il Sung Stadium in Pyongyang on Wednesday.
“Winning is a very powerful thing and after the win at Dhaka, our confidence has gone up. We scored four goals in the match. We know it's going to be tough but we want to get to the (Inter-Zone) final. And for that, we need a good result in Pyongyang,” he added.
Abahani are likely to have reinforcements for the return leg, with Egyptian defender Alaaeldin Nasr Elsayed Eissa having served a one-match suspension while Mamunul Islam is racing to be fit after missing the first leg through injury.
“We are hoping Mamanul Islam recovers for the match. Eissa will also be coming back from suspension and that will have a major impact on the defence and provide it some stability. Also, we hope to use him in set-pieces. I'm really looking forward to his first match in an Abahani shirt,” said Lemos.
FULL-TIME | Abahani Limited Dhaka 🇧🇩 4-3 4.25 SC 🇰🇵— AFC Cup (@AFCCup) August 21, 2019
🎢 What a rollercoaster that was! SEVEN goals in total as the Sky Blues edge a wild first leg at Bangabandhu National Stadium.#ABAv425 #AFCCup2019 pic.twitter.com/jT9dLDn6F1
Abahani, said Lemos, will make tactical changes to protect their slim lead against 4.25 SC.
"Since we have a slight advantage, we will not take too many risks. We will let 4.25 do that.”
Defending, however, won't be the Bangladesh champions only game plan.
“We realise that we can't win merely by defending. Although we played five at the back in the last match, we also wanted to counter attack. Hopefully, 4.25 will take some risks and that will open up spaces for us to counter and get some goals of our own.
"Our main aim is to get a goal in Pyongyang. If we do that, we will have a very good chance of winning the semi-final.”
Lemos also thanked the fans who flocked to the Bangabandhu National Stadium for the first leg.
“To all the Bangladesh supporters, I would say thank You. The atmosphere in the stadium was terrific. It really pushed us to another level.
"We hope to make the fans proud. We are not merely representing Abahani but also Bangladesh. We want to get to the (Inter-Zone) final. Hopefully, this is not the last match our fans will be seeing us in in the tournament."
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