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Nat'l soccer
Brothers reach semis riding on Siraji


A first-half injury-minute goal from substitute Ibnul Siraji helped defending champions Brothers Union to confirm the semifinal berths in the Nitol-Tata Fifth National Football League by a solitary goal victory over 10-men Muktijoddha Sangsad at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in the city Thursday.
With the victory, Brothers Union took solo lead in the table with eight points including four bonus points, followed by Abahani Limited, who also confirmed their semifinal berths Wednesday securing seven points, reports BDNEWS.
Both Abahani and Brothers Union will face each other in their last super-league match Saturday.
Last year's runners-up Muktijoddha Sangsad, who remained on five points, will play against Bangladesh Army, who have three bonus points, in the last super league match Tuesday to confirm their semifinal berth.
Though both the Dhaka giants fielded their national booters for the first time in the national league, the heavyweight game failed to draw attention before a few-hundred spectators at the big-bowl.
The ball was mostly concentrated in the midfield despite the freedom fighters' team adopted to play defensive after being reduced to 10 men after 19 minutes as Muktijoddha striker Earnest Jeremiah was sent off.
The Nigerian striker Jeremiah committed a foul as he hit Brothers central defender Shuvro in an off-ball situation after Muktis striker Khanchan brought down Brothers defender Sujan in an on-ball situation at the other end.
Referee Mansoor Azad did not hesitate to give the marching order to Jeremiah.
Left-winger Siraji, who came in the field just three minutes before to replace Jislan, sent country's number one goalie Aminul past with a angular ground inside the box after dodging past left-stopper Azmal Hossain Biddyut. Brothers national striker Amili fed the ball to Siraji.
After the lemon-break, the Gopibagh outfits Brothers played defensive to restrain the margin, but the 10-men Muktijoddha Sangsad played all-out game in the entire second-half to press hard on the opponent, but finally failed to level the margin.
Brothers Union custodian Mohammad Ali foiled a Odafa's side header at the cost of corner in the 70th minute while seven minutes later Muktijoddha skipper-cum-custodian denied to a Liton powerful shot at the top of the box for a corner.
Muktijoddha Sangsad came close to level the margin twice in two minutes, but both the efforts were narrowly missed the target.
An 84-minute Khanchan header, which beat advancing custodian Ali, went narrowly over the crosspiece while Ali saved a cannon like shot from Nigerian Odafa Okoli at the cost of cornet in the next minute.