Saif Sporting Club were denied by woodwork and some brilliant goalkeeping on their continental bow as they lost to Maldives’ TC Sports Club by 0-1 goal in their first-leg of the AFC Cup preliminary round match in Dhaka on Tuesday.
The defeat means Saif will have to beat TC Sports in their second-leg match in Male on January 30 if they want to qualify in the play-off stage.
Kyrgyz forward Vlasichev Anatoli scored the all-important winner for the visitors at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
However, Saif put immense pressure in the second half and created series of chances only to feel unlucky.
Saif forwards saw their five attempts were denied by the side post while TC Sports’ goalkeeper also frustrated them by producing some great saves throughout the match.
Saif’s English head coach Ryan Northmore fielded only four players —Jamal Bhuiyan, Tapu Barman, Rahmat Miah and English forward Charlie Sheringham — from the squad that played in the recently concluded Bangladesh Premier League.
The hosts looked unorganised in the first half and conceded the goal from a defensive error of Susanta Tripura.
Vlasichev Anatoli put TC Sports ahead in the 23rd minute when he beat his marker Susanta, who looked shaky in his debut international match, before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Rana from the top of the box.
Rahmat Miah could level the margin in the 43rd minute when his long looping shot kissed the woodwork before TC’s Belarusian goalkeeper Asnin Dzmitry punched the ball away for a corner.
Northmore fielded midfielder Abdullah in place of Zahid and the national midfielder proved instrumental for his sides attacking display in the second half.
Saif skipper Jamal saw his curving effort from just outside the box in the 57th minute was denied by TC Sports’ substitute goalkeeper Ibrahim Nadim.
Colombian defender Deiner could give Saif a deserving equaliser at the hour mark but his by-cycle effort from middle of the box hit the woodwork before Ujbek midfielder Umar’s shot on a rebound was blocked by a defender.
Two minutes later Abdullah’s free-kick from the left side hit the crossbar before Sheringham sent the ball over on a rebound from an unmarked position.
Kingsley had a great chance in the 82nd minute when the Nigerian chipped the ball over an onrushing keeper only to hit the post.
Saif coach Northmore blamed bad luck for the defeat but was confident to make a comeback in the away match next week.
‘Team worked very hard but unfortunately luck was not with us today. We created lots of chances, we hit the bar few times but at the end of the day only goal counts,’ said the coach.
‘It was disappointing to concede the goal so easily.’
TC Sports coach Mohamed Nizam also praised Saif for their great effort in the second half.
‘Saif SC are young club that have talented players. They tried everything to equalise but we also tried to keep our one goal lead intact,’ he said.
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