The-afc.com : 19 AUGUST, 2021, 12:33 AM
Bangladesh champions Bashundhara Kings made a winning start to their 2021 AFC Cup campaign, easing to a 2-0 win over Maziya Sports & Recreation Club of the Maldives in their opening Group D clash on Wednesday.
An own goal from Maziya skipper Mohamed Irufaan broke the deadlock before classy winger Robinho doubled the tally before half-time as Bashundhara joined India’s ATK Mohun Bagan at the top of the group standings.
Returning to the continental stage after their AFC Cup debut fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Bashundhara will advance to the knockout stage as South Zone winners should they win their two remaining matches in the group over the next week.
Oscar Bruzon’s side had made light work of their domestic opponents to retain the Bangladesh Premier League in the weeks leading up to the group stage, but they found a willing challenger in Maziya, who registered five shots at goal in the first 15 minutes.
Despite the group hosts’ competitive start, it was Bashundhara who went ahead thanks to Irufaan’s own goal in the 25th minute, with the Maziya captain disastrously lobbing his own goalkeeper Mirzokhid Mamatkhonov with an attempted clearance from all of 30 yards.
Bahsundhara’s second goal owed more to the quality of Robinho than Maziya’s misfortune, although the Brazilian star did punish some lacklustre defending by driving into the box and beating Mamatkhonov at his near post from about 12 yards.
The visitors were now in command, and they nearly went to the interval three goals clear when Raul Becerra’s 20-yard strike fizzed narrowly wide of the upright in the dying moments of the opening period.
With Robinho well into his bag of tricks and Becerra trying his luck with an overhead kick that would have ended the goal of the tournament search months early had it not sailed wide, the Bangladeshi side looked at ease as the game slowed in the second half.
A well-struck free-kick from Maziya’s Hamza Mohamed forced a rare second half save from Bashundhara shot stopper Anisur Rahman, but the visitors never looked in any danger as the minutes ticked away, sealing an impressive opening night win.
They’ll continue their campaign against India’s Bengaluru FC on Saturday, while Risto Vidakovic’s Maziya will have no room for error when they face ATK Mohun Bagan later that day.
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