Bangladesh’s near-misses against India
When it comes to football rivalry, India versus Bangladesh matches hold a special significance to the fans and players. Although India enjoy a 14-3 record against their neighbours in 28 meetings at senior level, the India-Bangladesh clashes have historically been very competitive in nature.
In the '80s and '90s, India and Bangladesh were arguably the two best sides of the South Asian region and the clashes between these two teams were very evenly matched, with a moment of brilliance from the likes of IM Vijayan or Baichung Bhutia often deciding the fate of games in favour of the Blue Tigers.
Over the last decade-and-a-half, though, India have got way ahead of the rest in this region while Bangladesh have endured a freefall in results and competitiveness.
While India have won two out of four SAFF Championship titles and even played in the last Asian Cup in 2015, Bangladesh have failed to get past the group stages of the SAFF Championship in the last four editions.
Our neighbours had recently ascended to 97th in FIFA rankings (currently 105) as Bangladesh descended to as low as 197 (currently 184th).
Despite the current gulf between the two sides, the one encouraging thing for the men in red and green, who take on India in a crucial World Cup qualifying fixture on Monday, is the fact that they haven't lost against their mighty neighbours in more than a decade.
The last time Bangladesh lost to India was in 2009 in the semifinal of the SAFF Championship in Dhaka. Since then the two sides met only three times at senior level and all the three matches ended in draws, with India scoring last-ditch goals to salvage draws. Let us take a look back at those three particular matches:
Heartbreak at Halchowk: Sep 3, 2013, Kathmandu
Bangladesh 1– 1 India
(Meshu 83') (Chhetri' 90+5')
Bangladesh went into the Kathamndu SAFF Championship with high hopes, with hopes of banishing the demons of New Delhi from two years ago where they were knocked out from the group stages.
But all those hopes would turn into nightmare in a matter of days. The charges of Lodewijk de Kruif started the campaign with a 2-0 defeat against hosts Nepal and were up against defending champions India.
The match played on the muddy and uneven surface of the Halchowk Stadium in the suburb of Kathmandu was a contest riddled with mistakes and neither side played enterprising football.
It was only in the last 10 minutes that the game sprang to life, thanks to Atiqur Rahman Meshu's goal – a deflected attempt on 82 minutes from inside the box on a corner from Mamunul Islam beating the India goalkeeper.
India seemed destined for their first defeat against Bangladesh in 10 years, until the last thirty seconds when a needless challenge from Mamunul inspired the referee to blow the whistle for a free-kick, which was curled in expertly by Chettri over the Bangladesh wall and to the right of goalkeeper Mamun Khan.
Bangladesh would go on to lose their next match against Pakistan 2-1 to exit from the group stages.
Sunil Chhetri strikes again: March 5, 2014, Goa
India 2- 2 Bangladesh
(Chhetri 14', 90+2') (Mithun 51', Arnob 64' OG)
Sunil Chhetri, the evergreen striker of the India team, would go on to deny Bangladesh again the following year with two wonderful goals at the Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Margao.
Bangladesh were definitely the underdogs this time, playing on Indian soil but the men in red and green looked like they were building up to something big with their possession-based football under De Kruif.
Chhetri gave India a 14th-minute lead with a curling attempt as India dominated the first half, but Bangladesh came back roaring, thanks to a Mithun Chowdhury tap-in on 51 minutes followed by an own goal from Arnob Mandal 13 minutes later.
Following the lead, Bangladesh took their foot off the gas and invited the opposition into many attacks, one of which resulted in the equaliser from Chettri, a stunning volley off a cross from Denzil Franco two minutes into stoppage time.
Bangladesh, though, thought they found a winning goal deeper into stoppage time when substitute striker Toklish Ahmed challenged outside the box by Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul. Toklish did brilliantly well to quickly get up to his feet and slot the ball at the back of the net, but the Indian referee, instead of playing advantage, blew the whistle for a foul and disallowed a deserving winner for Bangladesh.
Paul was given the marching orders but that did little to help Bangladesh's cause as there was only a minute of play left. Skipper Mamunul Islam took the resulting free-kick which was headed wide by Zahid Hasan Emily.
Adil Khan rises to the occasion: 15 Oct, 2019, Kolkata
India 1 – 1 Bangladesh
(Adil 88') (Saad 42')
The two sides met again on Indian soil four years later in a World Cup qualifying fixture. India were coming off a spirited goalless draw against Qatar in Doha, so their confidence was sky high.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, were a side desperate to transform encouraging and disciplined performances into results.
What transpired, though, in front of 60,000+ spectators at the Salt Lake Stadium took everyone by surprise as Bangladesh shelved their defensive football and caught India off-guard right from the start.
Jamie Day's men put on a show – arguably their best performance of the under the current coach – and were denied a penalty in the first minute when Mohammad Ibrahim was tackled from behind inside the Indian box by Rahul Bheke.
But Bangladesh took the lead in the 42nd minute, Saad Uddin heading home a curling free-kick from Jamal Bhuiyan to stun the Kolkata crowd into silence.
While Chhetri was all but neutralised by Jamal Bhuiyan's marking all through the match, India found an unlikely saviour in the form of Adil Khan.
The tall centre-back rushed back to make a goalline clearance after goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh's palms took the pace of Nabib Nawaz Jibon's attempt on goal.
Adil then showed his prowess at the other end of the pitch just as Bangladesh were sensing a first victory over their mighty neighbours in 16 years.
The India centre-back rose above the Bangladesh defence on a corner from Brandon Fernandes on 88 minutes and his towering header rescued Igor Stimac's men once more.