Bangladesh earn a draw
Veteran defender Tapu Barman's 84th-minute strike earned Bangladesh a 1-1 draw against Afghanistan as the Group E fixtures of the World Cup/Asian Cup Qualifiers got underway in Doha, Qatar yesterday.
The 26-year-old centre-back brought Bangladesh rousing back after Amiruddin Sharifi's 48th-minute goal had given Afghanistan a deserved lead at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in a contest largely dominated by Anush Dastagir's men.
The Bashundhara Kings centre-back struck from the centre of the box, pirouetting on his heels after chesting down fellow centre-back Riyadul Hasan Rafi's header on a cross inside the box.
The equaliser came as Bangladesh coach Jamie Day injected a host of attacking options, desperate to earn at least a point, which had looked a far cry till that point given the possession enjoyed and attacking threats posed by the Afghans.
Despite the draw, Bangladesh stayed at the bottom of the group with two points while Afghanistan consolidated third position with five points.
Bangladesh started with a familiar 4-2-3-1 formation with Matin Mia playing in the centre-forward position and Mashuk Mia Johnny playing in an advanced role in front of the double pivot of Jamal Bhuiyan and Sohel Rana. Rakib Hossain and Biplu Ahmed played on the wings.
Topu and Rafi were trusted with the centre-back roles while Rahmat Mia played as left-back and Finland-born Tariq Raihan Kazi made an impressive debut for the national team in his preferred right-back position.
Anisur Rahman Zico donned the gloves for Jamie Day's men.
Although Afghanistan enjoyed the majority of possession right from the beginning, they found it hard to break a disciplined Bangladesh defence all through the first 45 minutes.
However, all that changed in the second half, thanks to that wonderful goal from Sharifi. The forward stabbed home at the far corner of the net with a deft touch following a brilliant cutback from David Najem.
Bangladesh were increasingly cornered ever since that goal but managed to stay in the game before Jamie Day made three attacking subs, bringing on Mohammad Jewel, Rimon Hossain and Mohammad Abdullah. The latter almost gave Bangladesh the equaliser with his first touch in the 80th minute, latching on to a breathtaking long-ball from another substitute, Manik Molla, only to be denied by the stretched right foot of Afghanistan goalkeeper Ovays Azizi.
The pressure paid off, though, four minutes later as Topu's goal sparked life into the Bangladesh players and helped them leave the field with some pride.
Bangladesh will take on India on Monday before wrapping up the second round of the qualifying campaign against Oman on June 15.