Abahani, Jamal lock horns in first semi todayStaff Correspondent
Last season’s runners-up Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club will face Abahani Limited today in the first semi-final of the 28th Federation Cup at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
The last-four tie will kick off at 5:00pm and will be telecast live by Bangladesh Television.
Abahani progressed to the semi-final after outclassing unheralded Feni Soccer Club 2-0 in the quarter-final, while Sheikh Jamal confirmed their semi spot with a comprehensive 3-1 win over Mohammedan Sporting Club.
It will be the fifth meeting between the two Dhanmondi-based clubs in the Federation Cup with Sheikh Jamal prevailing on two occasions, Abahani winning once and the other encounter ending in a 1-1 draw.
Sheikh Jamal have already proved their title credentials after a resounding win over Mohammedan in the quarters and were boosted by the news that their star Haitian playmaker Sony Norde will be fit for the crucial semi-final clash.
Norde has five goals from the last three matches and his side will look to him for inspiration.
Abahani’s Ghanaian marksman Osei Morison is not far behind though. With five goals in the season’s curtain-raiser tournament, Morison will be Abahani’s answer to Sheikh Jamal’s prolific Norde.
So, it will not only be an intense battle between the two powerhouses but also an encounter between the two best foreign players in Bangladesh.
‘If [Jamal] have Sony Norde, we have Osei Morison, so anyone can change the picture of the game, anytime,’ said Abahani captain Mohammed Sujan on Thursday.
‘We are ready to face Sheikh Jamal and we wish to win the game for our team-mate, Wali Faisal, who recently lost his new-born baby.’
Meanwhile, Sheikh Jamal skipper Mamunul Islam differed with Abahani captain and claimed that besides the foreigners, the local players of both the teams will also help create the difference.
‘Both teams signed some quality foreigners for the ongoing season. Our overseas players are serving very well but the foreigners of Abahani are also performing well, so it will be important for the local footballers to perform in the game which will no doubt make the difference,’ said Mamunul on Thursday.
‘Before the season started we had set our target to win all four silverwares and so we have to win tomorrow’s [today] match.’
Sheikh Jamal’s Nigerian coach Joseph Afusi was confident with his side but alerted his players before facing the Sky Blues, who boast one of the largest fanbases in the country.
‘Abahani are one of the powerhouses. They have experienced and young national team players. I believe by tomorrow [today] we will be going all out to play our football to make the Bangladeshi football supporters happy and try and do our best on the field,’ said Afusi.
‘It is not my duty to comment about refereeing decisions. There is a referees’ association. But my opinion is that if the game is fair then everybody will be happy and you will enjoy the football.
‘If every team has a player like Sony Norde in their team, you will see 20000 supporters coming to the field alone to watch him play,’ he added.
Amalesh Sen, interim coach of Abahani motivated his players with a glaring piece of stat – the Sky Blues are the only semi-finalist who are yet to concede a goal in the competition.
‘We are the only team among the four semi-finalists who are yet to concede any goal so we will try to continue the record,’ said Amalesh.
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