Rahmatganj reach maiden Fed Cup final in 87 years

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A glancing header by Uzbekistan forward Turaev Akobir gave the old Dhaka outfit an early lead and solid defensive performance by Syed Golam Jilani’s charges kept Mohammedan at bay till the final whistle

Rahmatganj Muslim Friends Society carried on their top defensive show in the TVS Federation Cup to reach the final of a top-tier tournament for the first time in the professional era after handing Mohammedan Sporting Club Limited a 1-0 defeat in the first semi-final at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka Thursday.

A glancing header by Uzbekistan forward Turaev Akobir gave the old Dhaka outfit an early lead and solid defensive performance by Syed Golam Jilani’s charges kept Mohammedan at bay till the final whistle.

Not enough records are available to confirm if the 87-year old Rahmatganj qualified for a tournament final before the introduction of the professional league 13 years ago as their best achievement in top-tier league was finishing runners-up in the Dhaka League back in 1977, along with a few semi-final berths in various tournaments.

“This is the first time I reached the final of a club tournament since I started coaching in 1999. I was ashamed after conceding 53 goals in the league last season so I wanted to improve my defence to compete against big teams this season,” said Jilani, adding that his gameplan was to surprise the opponent with pressing game at the beginning.

Mohammedan’s English coach Sean Lane blamed his players for “sleeping” in the first quarter-hour mark when Rahmantanj continuously penetrated their defence until getting the desired lead, before shifting their plan to fortify the defence and attack on the counter.

Both the goalkeepers, Russel Mahmud Liton and Mohammad Suzan Hossain, were impressive during their respective quarter-finals as the former waved away Tajik defender Acpopov Asrorov’s vigorous free-kick over the bar.

Akobir was not a usual No 9 but Jilani made him so as he scored Rahmatganj’s only second goal of the tournament in four outings to back the plan of early pressing. 

Mohammedan players lie dejected on the ground after the loss Dhaka Tribune

The sliding header of Uzbek striker with both feet on air following Sanoar Hossain’s cross gave no chance to Liton.

The defensive pair of Asrorov and Camara Younoussa made it difficult for in-form striker Souleymane Diabate to break through but Nigerian midfielder Ugochukwu Moneke managed to enter the box with the ball twice but in vain on both occasions.

Rahmatganj crowded their own half more after the break and substitute Aminur Rahman Sajib thought he had beaten the offside trap to meet Souleymane’s through pass before hitting the net, but the linesmen blew the whistle before the shot.

Mohammedan’s Japanese forward Uryu Nagata had almost similar opportunity like Akobir in added time but his sliding header from a Moneke cross bounced wide off the far post.

“He is an energetic player. He is not a good scorer but a great header. I (told) him [Thursday] morning that he doesn’t try to score from headers, and he did it,” Jilani praised Akobir after the historic win.

Lane was disappointed after the game. 

“We were sleeping when they pressed us in the first 15 minutes. We tried everything for the equalizer but their defence was very organized to make it difficult for us to break through,” said Lane.

Rahmatganj will face either Bashundhara Kings or Police Football Club in Sunday’s final.

Starting XI

Rahmatganj: Russel Mahmud Liton; Acpopob Asrorov, Camara Younoussa, Mahmudul Hasan Kiron, Nahid Islam; Arafat Hossain, Shahedul Alam, Sanwar Hossain, Sohel Mia, Momodou Bah; Turaev Akobir.

Mohammedan: Suzan Hossain; Stanley Amadi, Habibur Rahman Sohag, Rakib Khan, Mohammad Atikuzzaman; Ugochukwu Moneke, Uryu Nagata, Anik Hossain, Sahed Hossain, Yusuf Sifat (Farad Mona); Soulemane Diabate.

RESULT

Rahmatganj 1 (Akobir 16) 0 Mohammedan