Dramatic winner takes Abahani Limited Dhaka into Inter-Zone semi-finals
Guwahati: Masih Saighani's goal in added time secured Abahani Limited Dhaka a place in the 2019 AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semi-finals after the Bangladesh club edged Minerva Punjab FC 1-0 in Group E on Tuesday.
The win allowed the Bangladesh club entry into the next round while breaking Minerva Punjab’s streak of five draws in the tournament. With Chennaiyin FC locking horns with Manang Marshyangdi in the other fixture, the match was of key consequence for the fate of Group E. Eventually, defender Saighani’s goal ensured the result of the other match mattered little.
Although Abahani head coach Mario Lemos had said his team would try to stop Minerva Punjab, the Bangladesh side didn’t shy away from attacking from the start.
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The first opportunity, though, was created by the Minerva duo of Samuel Lalmuapuia and Makan Chote when the latter’s cross was headed goalwards by Samuel but without the desired result.
It was the Abahani Dhaka show in the first half with the likes of Kervens Belfort, Nabib Jibon and Saad Uddin putting pressure on the Minerva defence, which buckled on several occasions.
However, Abahani Dhaka couldn't finish and Minerva custodian Bhaskar Roy rarely found it difficult to keep the shots fired at him at bay.
In the 34th minute, Uddin found himself in a good position outside the box but the subsequent left-footed shot was too weak to trouble the Minerva goalkeeper.
Minutes later, the Abahani boys were at it again and strung together passes that left the Minerva defence dazed. The end result again was a fairly disappointing effort from Sohel Rana that found itself straight into the goalkeeper’s gloves.
The 41st minute saw a Minerva attack almost coming to fruition but Moinudeen, who got hold of the loose ball with all the space and time to create a goal, ended up skying the shot from inside the box.
Action in the second half considerably slowed down with Abahani Dhaka finding the odd chance to break into the Minerva half without any result.
A rare moment of excitement in the second half came late in the 84th minute through a set-piece opportunity for the Minerva side as Kalif Alhassan’s free-kick had the right power and direction but Mohd Alam rose to the occasion to parry it away for a corner.
Samuel and Moinudeen increased the pressure in the next few minutes, resulting in a melee in the box that culminated with a misdirected shot by the latter.
As the game was petering out to a draw, Saighani put a terrific header to score in added time to hand Abahani Dhaka the match.
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