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Saturday, August 07, 2004

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Nitol-Tata National Football league
BU down Russel

Premier League champions Bro-thers Union sur-vived some tense moments before earning a 2-1 win over Sheikh Ru-ssel Krira Chakra in the opening match of the Nitol-Tata National Football League at the Khulna Stadium yesterday.

Midfielder Monwar brilliantly headed the men in orange in front in the first half and promising striker Abul doubled it after the breather before substitute Maruf brought Russel into contention in the big match of the third leg despite it being played on a slippery pitch.

The conditions however did not disappoint the large holiday crowd who flocked to the stadium to watch the two Dhaka titans go head-to-head for the first time since their high-profile league clashes.

Big-spending Brothers had something to prove after winning the first meeting 2-0 before losing the return leg fixture 1-0 to the surprise package.

But it was league runners-up Russel who managed to settle down quicker. In the eighth minute striker Jalal stormed into the box and dodged past an advancing Brothers keeper Mohammad Ali but just as he was about to put the ball into the net he slipped.

In a scrappy first half national playmaker Monwar final delighted the thousands of Orange supporters when he headed home in the 21st minute from a difficult angle off a free-kick by man-of-the-match Arman Mia. And that's how the score remained until the breather.

Ten minutes after the break Brothers increased the lead through Abul. Having earlier wasted a couple of easy chances, the unmarked striker finally found the target from a handshaking distance after Firoze Mahmud Titu took advantage of some flat-footed defending by the Russel players to send in a pass.

Russel, who held Mohammedan Sporting Club to a one-all draw in the final match of the second leg in Rangpur last week, tried desperately to find a way back into game but on each occasion their strikers' long shots were dealt with by the ever-confident Brothers custodian.

Russel had to wait until the 78th minute before spoiling Mohammad Ali's clean sheet when second-half substitute Maruf reduced the margin with a crafty header from a superb cross by Moroccan goal-machine Younnes, who had until then played virtually no part in the match because of tight marking by defenders Sujan and Nazrul.

Brothers' victory ensured the top slot of the Group B and almost a place in the six-team finals. The Gopibagh outfit has collected maximum points from three matches while Russel has seven points from four matches.

Brothers coach Naimuddin was satisfied with his boys' performance although they missed lot of scoring opportunities.

"We missed some easy chances otherwise the winning margin could've been wider. But they proved they are the best team at the moment," said the veteran Indian coach.

"I didn't want to take any risk against Russel that's why I put defender Rajani in his original position. Though I still believe he has lot of potential to serve the team up front."

Russel coach Wajed Gazi also believed that if his boys didn't spoil some good opportunities the result could've been different.

"Brothers is a strong side, no doubt. But my boys missed their chances," said Gazi.

Yellow cards: Sujon, Monwar and Titoo (Brothers), Burdeep Mohammed (Russel)


BROTHERS UNION: Ali, Jahangir, Sujon, Rajani, Nazrul, Arman, Abul (Tapu), Iqbal (Rikta), Monwar (Liton), Titoo, and Alfaz.

SHEIKH RUSSEL: Apel, Biplob, Narayan, Burdeep, Mintoo, Asif, Kamal, Asad (Apu), Jalal, Bulbul (Maruf) and Younnes.

Referee: Mansoor Azad

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