Sheikh Russel KC moved into the final of the Independence Cup after three seasons with a 3-2 win over defending champions Abahani in the first semifinal at the Birshreshtha Shaheed Flight Lt Matiur Rahman Stadium in Munshiganj yesterday.
Ivory Coast’s Charles Didier, Nigeria’s Mfon Sunday Udoh and Uzbekistan’s Timur Talipov scored a goal apiece for the winning side Nigeria’s Peter Nworah and Costa Rica’s Daniel Colindres netted one goal each for Abahani, who played in the Independence Cup final twice in last four editions.
Playing without their inspirational Brazilian midfielder Raphael Augusto and two wing-backs Nurul Naim Faisal and Sushanta Tripura, holders Abahani looked unimpressive against a spirited Sheikh Russel whose attacking force featuring, Didier and Congolese Mpia Mapuku, exposed the Abahani defence time and again.
Sheikh Russel broke the deadlock in the 31st minute with Didider nodded home a Sohel Rana header off a corner from Sunday.
They doubled the advantage in the 54th minute when Sunday snatched a ball from Syrian defender Mohammad Yousef and sent it over the advancing goalkeeper Mahfuz Hasan Pritom.
Abahani hit back 10 minutes later, thanks to a sudden left-footer from Peter Nworah from outside the box but Sheikh Russel restored their two-goals lead in the 72nd minute when Talipov headed a Sunday free-kick home.
Abahani brought a few changes in the dying minutes to press hard and Colindres reduced the margin from the spot in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time but it was too late for them to make a comeback.