After being dropped from the national squad for the FIFA friendly against Cambodia next month, striker Jafar Iqbal torched Sheikh Jamal to propel Saif SC to an emphatic 3-0 win in a Bangladesh Premier League encounter yesterday.
Jafar, who was in the national squad for October's Bangabandhu Gold Cup before being dropped by coach Jamie Day from the 27-member preliminary squad for the friendly on Sunday, wreaked havoc in the Sheikh Jamal defence from the onset as the opposing defenders failed to handle his speed on the right flank.
The striker gave visiting Saif SC a well-deserved lead at the Bangabandhu National Stadium before assisting Colombian midfielder Deiner Cordoba and winning a penalty converted by Russian midfielder Denis Bolshakov to ensure Saif SC's maiden win over Sheikh Jamal in top-flight football. Upon making their top-flight debut last season, Saif SC's best results against the Dhanmondi-based outfit came in two draws in the league last season. However, they suffered a 1-2 defeat to Sheikh Jamal in this season's Federation Cup.
"When I saw that I was not in the preliminary squad, I felt a lot of sorrow. I think the selection committee and the coaches saw my performance today but their decision is final. However, I am confident I will again get called-up for the national team," Jafar said. "I am in the preliminary squad for the AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers and I am hopeful of securing a place in the final squad."
Saif SC captain Jamal Bhuiyan pulled the strings from midfield, providing the ball to the final third as well as foiling the opposition's attacks.
Saif SC came close to taking the lead in the seventh minute as a Jamal free-kick, which was drifting away, was headed back by Jafar. The ball came to Andres, who unfortunately saw his header ricochet off the crossbar.
Sheikh Jamal attempted to press Saif SC and Argentina's Luciano Perez saw his glancing header from Omar Farque's cross narrowly miss the far post with the goalkeeper beaten in the 19th minute.
After surviving that scare, Saif stepped up their attack, with Deiner Andres missing the target again before Jafar broke the deadlock in the 40th minute with a left-footed strike from inside the box after availing a pass from Jamal.
Andres headed home a cross from Jafar in the 58th minute before Bolshakov wrapped up the win in stoppage time of the second half after Jafar was brought down by defender Shawkat Russel inside the danger zone.
Saif SC remain fourth with 17 points from eight games while Sheikh Jamal, on the back of a third defeat from nine matches, are sixth with 12 points.
Meanwhile, the crucial encounter between perennial rivals Abahani and Mohammedan was postposed due to the heavy showers at the Big Bowl.
The referee and match commissioner inspected the venue twice over the course of an hour before postponing the match.
"The match was postponed due to unplayable conditions following rain. According to the bylaws, the match commissioner inspected the venue thrice within one hour before taking the final decision. We will decide later when this match will take place," said Jaber Bin Taher Ansari, the manager of the professional football league.