A 77th-minute strike from Emeka Darlington helped Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club advance to the next round of the AFC Cup as the Bangladesh Premier League champions played out a 1-1 draw with hosts FC Alga in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on Saturday. Jamal qualified for the play-off round with a better goal difference thanks to their 4-1 win against Mecau’s Casa Benfica in the first match as FC Alga beat the same opponent with a margin of 2-0.
Ildar Amirov put the home side ahead in the 22nd minute but Nigerian Emeka scored the equaliser 13 minutes from the time to make Jamal’s first appearance in the continental arena memorable.
Jamal’s Nigerian coach Joseph Afusi made some changes in his starting line-up, bringing defender Nasiruddin Chowdhury in place of forward Toklis Ahmed to boost their defence.
But the change didn’t affect much in the first-half as they failed to organise the game in the middle.
The five-time Kyrgyzstan league champions, Alga, on the other hand, put immense pressure in the opponent’s defence from the word go.
But Jamal keeper Shahidul Alam Sohel was there to play one of his best ever matches as he rescued his side several times.
In the 10th minute, Sohel produced a stunning save to deny forward Ivan Filatov’s powerful attempt inside the box after a nice cross from Rustamov Tursunali.
Alga went ahead when Amirov Ildar sent the ball home on a rebounder after Sohel initially punched away a cross of Muladzhanov Artur.
Sohel again rescued his side with another brilliant clearance in the 35th minute when he dived to his left to block a powerful effort from Rustamov.
The domination of the hosts continued in the second half but they wasted a golden opportunity to double the lead in the 58th minute when Ivan entered the box before placing the ball past onrushing Sohel wide.
Jamal, then tried their best to equal the margin and finally succeed at the end of second half.
The in-form Emeka gave the lifeline to the Bangladesh champions, heading home a nice cut back off Gambian midfielder Landing Darboe who beat three defenders to break into the penalty area before set up the ball to Emeka.
Masud Pervez Kayser, who stood as Jamal head coach after their regular coach Afusi failed to meet AFP criterion, gave all the credits to his players for the much-needed draw.
‘After conceding the goal our players didn’t break down and tried to level the margin,’ Kayser told New Age over phone after the match.
‘I personally admired our goalkeeper Sohel who helped his team-mate to keep the tempo by producing some stunning save.’
Jamal president Monzur Kader announced a bonus of $25,000 for the whole team.
-With New Age input