Nabib Newaz Jibon scored the first hattrick of his Bangladesh Premier League career to propel Abahani to the top of the table with a comprehensive 5-1 win over strugglers Rahmatganj MFS at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
The national team striker, who had scored his last hattrick during his Championship League days with Uttar Baridhara during the 2011-12 season, scored a quickfire brace in the first half before sealing his hattrick in injury time of the second half, with Nigerian forward Sunday Chizoba chipping in with two goals.
The win took the Sky Blues to nine points from four matches as they go level on points with early pace-setters Bashundhara Kings, who have maintained a 100 per cent record in three matches.
Coming into the match on the back of a win against Muktijoddha Sangsad, the fifth-placed Abahani imposed their authority in the game even though goalkeeper Shahidul Alam Sohel had to be at his best in the 10th minute, producing a double save to deny minnows Rahmatganj the lead.
However, the Sky Blues soon broke the deadlock when Rainhan Hassan's long throw-in was headed home from close range by Jibon in the 18th minute. Rahmatganj defender Monday Osagie was partly to blame for the goal as he failed to clear the throw-in despite having the ball brush his head.
Jibon, who was playing as the second striker in this match behind Sunday, doubled the lead a minute later, slotting home a rebound from the middle of the box after Sunday's shot was parried back by Rahmatganj keeper Ariful Islam.
Rahmatganj had a few decent attacks but they had to wait till injury time in the first half to reduce the margin, skipper Siyo Zunapio headed home from right in front of goal after Rakibul Islam's cross was turned towards him by Sohel Rana.
Abahani, who had been quite lacklustre in the league thus far, turned on the style in the second half and scored three more goals. Sunday made it 3-1 five minutes after the break, poking home after rounding off the advancing opposition goalkeeper on a long ball from midfield.
The Rahmatganj goalkeeper was once again caught out of position in the 68th minute and Sunday took full toll by placing a through-ball from Kervens Belfort into the net.
And the win was wrapped up in style by Jibon, who chipped the ball delectably over the goalkeeper's head and into the back of the net.
The young striker was relieved to get back into form after faltering so often for his club and country.
“I am delighted with getting my first hattrick in top-tier football, and I'm also pleased to have played as a striker,” Jibon said after the match.
“I don't often get chances in the starting eleven and even when I do, I often don't get to play as a striker. So it was a more comfortable position for me and I hope the three goals will boost my confidence,” the lanky striker added.
SHEIKH JAMAL END DROUGHT
Three-time champions Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club notched their first win of the campaign with a 2-0 win away to Team BJMC at the Shaheed Bulu Stadium in Noakhali yesterday.
The Dhanmondi giants, who had dropped five points out of six prior to this match, rode on two goals from their two foreign recruits in the first half to stop the rot and get back into contention for the title race.
Argentine forward Luciano Perez broke the deadlock in the 13th minute before Kyrgyz forward David Tetteh sealed the victory 20 minutes later to lift the giants from 12th to sixth position on the table.