Bangladesh coach Jamie Day, in the pre-match press conference, had said that despite their two comfortable victories at home last month against Bhutan, the opening match of the South Asian Games in Kathmandu could be difficult. The coach, however, probably did not imagine that his team would save one of their worst performances for the opening match.
The coach was very disappointed following his side’s 1-0 defeat against Bhutan and admitted that it was a sloppy and sluggish performance from his charges, while giving credit to Bhutan for a deserved victory.
“Bhutan deserved to win. They created probably the same amount of chances, but better chances, and moved the ball better. We were sloppy and sluggish, and were not good in decision-making,” the English coach told the media after the match.
Chencho Gyeltshen’s 65th minute goal, a fine finish after the Bangladesh defence was caught napping on a clever through-ball, sealed the match in favour of Bhutan as Bangladesh failed to raise their game in the remaining minutes.
The Bangladesh team, which came to Nepal five days ahead of the tournament without any preparation camp, looked ragged and lacked cohesion in every department right from the first half and things only got worse after the break.
Despite playing poorly, Bangladesh had a glorious chance to break the deadlock in the 38th minute when Mohammad Ibrahim floated a perfectly weighted cross from the right for Saad Uddin. This was probably the best delivery from a Bangladesh player all through the game but Saad, who was unmarked at the far post, failed to make the proper connection.
The coach conceded that it was a costly mistake, but felt all the outfield players were equally poor, including the three substitutions he made in the second half -- Mahbubur Rahman Sufil for Nabib Newaz Jibon, Arifur Rahman for Rabiul Hasan and Rakib Hossain for Biplu Ahmed.
“Saad should have scored in the first half,” Day said. “None of the players, except for goalkeeper Zico maybe, came out with any credit to their name.”
It was hard to imagine it was the same Bangladesh team -- most of the players of the Olympic team are in the senior side -- that had almost beaten India on their home ground and ran Qatar close in the World Cup Qualifiers at home in October.
It seemed as if playing counter-attacking football and defending deep against better teams, which they do very well these days, Bangladesh have forgotten how to play attacking football when the opposition is not pressing hard. But then again, that was probably only one aspect of the game and they failed in all the other aspects as well.
The coach stopped short of saying it was the worst performance during his tenure, but his expressions said how disappointed he was and that the challenge of reaching the final had become mountainous as they face SAFF champions Maldives in their second game today.
“I know we can do lot better. We need to raise our level for the next three matches,” the coach said. “But if we play like this, there is no chance of playing in the final.”
Bangladesh had beaten Maldives on penalties to claim the bronze medal in the last SA Games in India three years ago, but with games against Maldives, Sri Lanka and hosts Nepal still remaining, it already looks like a tall ask for Day’s men to secure a medal this time around.
In the second match of the day, Maldives played out a goalless draw against Sri Lanka.