Nepal put up a vastly improved performance to deny Bangladesh a clean sweep in the Mujib Borsho international friendly series, holding the hosts to a goalless draw in the second and final match at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
On the back of a 2-0 win in the first match, Bangladesh came into the match harbouring hopes of another victory over the Himalayan nation but the hosts -- without head coach Jamie Day, who had tested positive Covid-19 twice -- were unimpressive, especially throughout the second half.
However, Bangladesh left the field with big smiles after winning the series 1-0, bolstered by the fact that the results over a higher ranked side would help them to climb up the FIFA rankings.
The Bangladesh Football Federation marked the final match with fireworks which gave the large crowd a taste of festivities. However, a spectator hopping the fence and running onto the pitch to take a selfie with Bangladesh captain Jamal Bhuiyan raised questions over the security management by the BFF, which now risks punishment from FIFA.
Nepal made five changes to the side that lost 2-0 in the first match and came out strongly, enjoying the lion share of possession throughout the match. However, they could not manage to break through as Bangladesh recorded another clean sheet.
The hosts made two changes to the team, drafting in goalkeeper Ashraful Islam Rana and centre-back Yeasin Khan, and were menacing from the word go.
Saad Uddin threatened the opponents in the very first minute from the right, which was an area where the hosts saw a number of good moves as the front three of Saad, Nabib Newaj Jibon and Suman Reza combined effectively. However, they also failed to make inroads.
Rana did not face much of a challenge, barring one big chance for the Nepal forwards, who had good service from their midfield. Rana was beaten by a glancing header from substitute Nawayug Shrestha in stoppage time of the second half, but the woodwork came to Bangladesh's rescue.
Nepal grew in confidence as the match progressed and looked eager to break the deadlock as the second half resumed. The visitors applied huge pressure in the first 10 minutes after the break and exposed the Bangladesh defence, but failed to cash in on those opportunities.
Bangladesh stuck to their counter-attacking philosophy and Mahbubur Rahman Sufil, who netted in the first game, was brought on to replace Sumon. However, the speedy striker hardly found the room to cause damage.
Assistant coach Stuart Watkiss replaced Manik Molla and Mohammad Ibrahim with Biplu Ahmed and Sohel Rana in order to gain more control over the midfield and Bangladesh sporadically launched ultimately unproductive attacks. But Nepal's grip on the match was strong till the final minute and they left the match with the solace that they had at least secured a draw.