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AFC CUP PLAY-OFF

Abahani face Mohun Bagan today

  • Sports Correspondent
  • 19 April, 2022 12:00 AM
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Bangladesh’s most successful domestic club Dhaka Abahani Ltd will start their AFC Cup 2022 campaign today when they lock their horns against Kolkata-based Indian Super League outfit ATK Mohun Bagan Football Club in an away match of the South Asia Zone play-off round at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata at 7:30pm (BST).

Last year, Bangladesh Premier League Champions Bashundhara Kings were eliminated from AFC Cup 2021 group stage after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Mohun Bagan in their must winning group match in the Maldives in August which was marred by several controversial refereeing decisions.

Abahani have to be conscious during the day’s match and have to avoid giving any chance to the referee to provide any advantage to the home side because the play-off is equally important for both teams as the winners will get a chance to join as the fourth team in Group D (South Asian Zone) along with BPL champions Bashundhara Kings, Maldivian side Maziya Sports and Recreation Club and Indian side Gokulam Kerala, scheduled to be held from May 18-24 at the same venue.

Abahani are going to play any AFC Cup match after a long 25-month gap. The six-time BPL champions played against the Maldivian side Maziya S&RC in preliminary round 2 of AFC Cup 2020 in February whereas Abahani failed to qualify for the main stage due to aggregate score rules after playing draws in both home and away legs.

Later, Abahani also missed the chance to play in AFC Cup 2021 when their match of preliminary round 2 against another Maldivian side Club Eagles was cancelled by AFC due to the lockdown amid the second wave of Covid in Bangladesh.    

The Bangladeshi outfit got a walkover to the play-off round this year as their opponents Club Valencia of the Maldives withdrew their participation due to having a financial crisis while Mohun Bagan qualified beating Sri Lanka club Blue Star SC by 5-0 last week.

However, Abahani received a blow ahead of the important match as their key scorer Brazilian forward Dorielton Gomes Nascimento likely to miss the game due to injury but another Brazilian Raphael Augusto can be helpful for the team as the midfielder has a six-year of experience playing in ISL outfits including Chennaiyin FC and Bengaluru FC.

Abahani’s experienced Portuguese coach Mario Lemos is just focusing on the match avoiding all these issues.

“We have to give our best in the match.. have to play an organised and disciplined game against the tough Indian counterparts. Dorielton is recovering but can’t say anything right now,” Lemos told the reporters on Monday.

Meanwhile, Mohun Bagan also got a big blow as their Fijian star and second captain Roy Krishna returned to his home due to some personal reasons but the Kolkata-based outfit got some relief as their two key foreigners Joni Kauko, Hugo Boumous and local forward Manvir Singh were in-form.

Mohun Bagan’s Spanish coach Juan Ferrando also said that they would play pressing football against a compact team like Abahani.

“They (Abahani) are a compact team, they don’t play three-four players in the attack... We need to pay attention in pressing as we need to keep the ball and move forward. It’s not so easy but we need to work hard to win the next match,” Ferrando said.