Six-time Bangladesh Premier League champions Abahani yesterday sent entries of two new foreign recruits --Egyptian defender Alaaeldin Nasr Elsayed Eissa and Korean midfielder Lee Tae Min -- along with Nigerian Sunday Chizoba and Haitian Kervens Belfort for the AFC Cup’s inter-zone playoff semifinals against North Korea’s April 25 SC.
The Sky Blues were forced to find replacements for injured Brazilian midfielder Wellington Priori and Afghan defender Masih Saighani, who recently joined Indian Super League side Chennaiyin FC. The Dhanmondi-based outfit tried to get the services of the outgoing Saighani in the home and away matches against the North Korean club following his tremendous performance in the AFC Cup where he scored three goals including two match-winners. But the 32-year-old defender is supposed to join his new outfit in pre-season camp from August 15. Saighani is still in Dhaka but he is not practising with Abahani currently.
The club’s Portuguese coach Mario Lemos is, however, hopeful about doing well against April 25 SC with the inclusion of the two new recruits.
“We have sent entries for the semifinal play-offs keeping Eissa and Lee in the final squad. Eissa has a good height and sense, so we can use him to foil the attacks of the opponents on air. He plays like Masih [Saighani] and I think his inclusion will solve the problem in defence,” Lemos told reporters yesterday.
Eissa had earlier played for TC Sports Club of Maldives and had been part of Maldivian side’s AFC Cup pre-qualifying matches against Bangladesh’s Saif Sporting Club in last edition. Eissa had also toured Bangladesh to play in the 2017 Sheikh Kamal International Gold Cup for eventual winners TC Sports Club.
“Lee is defensive midfielder. If we want to produce good results against April 25, we need good performance from these two players because we have to keep the defence sold,” said Lemos.
The Portuguese coach has been preparing his side in line with April 25’s playing style after analysing video footages of three matches of April 25.
“I think we have some creative players in midfield and if they can perform, Abahani will play good football and we will have a chance in the home match. But the North Korean side is definitely ahead of us and we are trying to understand their playing style by watching their video footages and preparing the side accordingly,” said Lemos.
In the last edition of the AFC Cup, April 25 reached the inter-zone play-off final where they were knocked out by Altyn Asyr of Turkmenistan by virtue of away goals despite an aggregate 3-3 result. The North Korean club were beaten by Bengaluru FC in inter-zone play-off semifinals with an aggregate 3-0 defeat in the 2017 edition.
Ahanani will hosts April 25 on August 21 before traveling to North Korea to play the away match on August 28.