A wasteful Saif Sporting Club suffered a 1-0 defeat against TC Sports Club of Maldives in the first leg of the AFC Cup playoff qualifiers at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
A 23rd-minute strike from Kyrgyz forward Anatoliy Vlasichev was good enough for the visitors to take home all three points, making Saif SC's job difficult for the away match in Male on January 30.
Saif looked like they were playing without purpose in the first half but came back strong after the break, creating numerous chances even though they failed to find an equaliser against the Maldivian outfit, who had won the Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup in Chittagong last year.
Newcomers Saif had strengthened their squad with players from Chittagong Abahani and Mohammedan, and five of those players were drafted in the playing eleven, who however frustrated the 5,000-plus crowd at the big bowl.
However, it can be said that luck was not with Saif, who were denied by the woodwork three times within the first 15 minutes of the second half after having put on a scrappy performance in the first half, where they seemed short of confidence and could hardly complete five passes despite being boosted by the presence of four foreign players.
TC Sports Club, on the other hand, played with a compact defence, led by Egyptian defender Alaaeldin Nasr Emagraby, and frustrated the hosts by foiling a lot of scoring chances.
The visitors grabbed the lead when forward Vlasichev collected a through-ball from Ishan Ibrahim and rounded off defender Sushanta Tripura inside the box to drive a low shot past goalkeeper Ashraful Islam Rana.
Despite conceding the lead, Saif looked ordinary before bouncing back in the second half after winger Zahid Hossain was replaced by midfielder Mohammad Abdullah while TC Sports Club's goalkeeper Asnin Dzmitry was taken off due to a wrist injury.
Within the first 15 minutes, Saif created at least six scoring opportunities, of which three attempts by Abdullah and Kingsley came off the crossbar.
“The team worked very hard but unfortunately luck was not with us today [Tuesday]. We created a lot of chances and hit the bar a few times, but at the end of the day its only goals that count,” said Saif coach Ryan Northmore, who is however confident about turning the tables in the away fixture.
“I am confident to win the away match because we created a lot of scoring chances against one or two chances they created, but the forwards need to be clinical in finishing and we will work on it in the coming days,” said Northmore.
“We expected a tough game and it was a tough contest, the pitch was not in good condition but the game was good. We won the game which is more important than anything even though the home side tired their best to win on their home ground,” said TC Sports Club coach Mohamed Nizam.