Bangladesh missed a gilt-edged opportunity to qualify for the SAFF final as they drew 1-1 with Nepal at the Maldives National Stadium in Male on Wednesday.
It was a must win game for the red and green jersey holders, which they led by 1 goal for the majority of the match, only to succumb in the 88th minute due to a penalty. With this draw, Bangladesh’s wait to play in the final of South Asian World Cup prolonged.
The first half was a pretty entertaining one as it was filled with attacks and counterattacks from both the sides. However, it was Bangladesh who looked more aggressive and got their deserved lead in the 9th minute of the match through forward Sumon Reza. Building up to the goal, the men in red and green won a free kick near the left-hand side of the D-box.
Skipper Jamal Bhuiyan lofted the ball inside the box from that spot, the ball got deflected off a Nepal player, fell perfectly into Sumon’s path, who headed it impeccably inside the goal, giving Bangladesh the lead.
Nepal kept the majority of the ball possession but could not do anything meaningful with it. They tried to find the equaliser but failed because of Bangladesh’s resolute backline. The red and green jersey holders also got their fair share of chances but lack of incisive decisions in the final third let them down.
However, the second half was a complete contrast of the first half. Nepal not only dominated ball possession but kept Bangladesh defence busy with their plethora of attacks. Bangladesh’s goalkeeper Anisur Rahman Zico made some very good saves. However, in the 79th minute of the match, Bangladesh was down to 10-man as Anisur Rahman Zico was sent off after he tried to clear a back pass from Rakib Hossain by running past the D-box and handling the ball with his hand to deny Nepal a clear-cut goalscoring opportunity.
From there it was a tough fight for the Bangladesh to hold off Nepal and they failed when referee awarded Nepal a penalty in the 87th minute, which midfielder Anjan Bista calmly guided to the right side of substitute goalkeeper Ashraful Islam Rana.
After that, Bangladesh couldn’t get back into the match with such a short period of time left and suffered another setback in the SAFF Championship.