Bangladesh emerged champions of Group B to set up a semifinal clash against hosts Bhutan following a hard-fought 2-1 win over Nepal in the SAFF U-18 Women's Championship in Thimphu yesterday.
Striker Sirat Jahan Shopna and midfielder Krishna Rani Sarkar scored the two goals in the first half to ensure the victory at the Changlimithang Stadium. Bangladesh also missed a spot-kick in the first half of this game which proved to be harder than anyone had anticipated.
Bangladesh had thrashed lightweights Pakistan 17-0 in their opening game on Sunday after Nepal had handed a 12-0 defeat to the Pakistanis.
The Bangladesh players found it hard to break the Nepal defence, so they resorted to long-ball strategy to create chances very early in the game and that's how the goals came.
Shopna, who scored seven goals against Pakistan, should have scored the opening goal in the sixth minute when she was through on goal with only the opposition goalkeeper to beat, but a heavy first touch took the ball away from her.
The prolific striker, however, made amends 10 minutes later as she ran on to a long ball from midfield, leaving two defenders in her wake, before sliding it past the advancing Nepal goalkeeper.
Krishna Rani Sarkar doubled the lead 16 minutes later, cleverly chipping the ball over the goalkeeper from inside the box after running on to a long kick from Bangladesh goalkeeper Rupna Chakma.
The girls in red could have gone into the break with a three-goal margin when Mishrat Jahan Moushumi was brought down inside the box in the 41st minute, but the spot-kick from Shamsunnahar went wide of the target.
Golam Rabbani Choton's charges failed to continue the good work after the break and it were the Nepalese girls who looked slightly better in that half. Although they hardly threatened the Bangladesh goalkeeper in the entire match, it was a mistake in midfield from Monika Chakma which allowed a Nepal goal right at the death, with Rasmi Kumari Shising finding the net with an excellent finish in stoppage time.
Bangladesh will meet Bhutan in the second semifinal on Friday after group A champions India square off against Nepal in the first semifinal on the same day.