Bangladesh revived their chances of reaching the final of the men’s football event of the 13th South Asian Games with a 1-0 victory against Sri Lanka in their third game at the Dasarath Rangasala in Kathmandu yesterday.
With Bhutan going to the top of the table with six points following their victory over Maldives earlier in the day and Nepal already on four points from two matches, Bangladesh desperately needed a win to stay in the race for the final.
The victory came courtesy of Mahbubur Rahman Sufil’s 11th-minute goal -- a simple tap-in, set up by Saad Uddin following a through-ball from Jamal Bhuiyan, but the victory could have been by a much bigger margin had two substitute forwards not wasted three scoring chances towards the end.
Bangladesh coach Jamie Day had made four changes from the last game, with Nabib Newaz Jibon, Rahmat Mia, Biplob Ahmed and Mohammad Ibrahim replaced by Mahbubur Rahman Sufil, Bishwanath Ghosh, Mohammad Al-Amin and Yeasin Khan in a 5-3-2 formation.
Despite the early goal, Bangladesh failed to take the game by the scruff of its neck, playing against a side that had played with less than 24 hours’ recovery.
There weren’t many attacking moves from either side in the rest of the first half before Rahmat Mia and Jibon came in place of Al Amin and Sufil, and things started moving for Bangladesh in the attacking third.
Soon after coming on, Rahmat almost scored with a brilliant floating attempt on goal which Sri Lanka goalkeeper Sujan Perera just about kept from going in, tipping it over the bar.
Then Jibon had the chance to kill off the game when he timed his run perfectly on a brilliant through-ball, but he slowed his pace down looking for support when he should have buried it past the keeper.
Mohammad Ibrahim came in for Rabiul as Jamie Day fielded seven players who can all play in defence, but Bangladesh continued to create chances and the missed chances began to stack up, with Ibrahim missing two gilt-edged opportunities from the top of the box.
The wasted chances could come back to haunt Bangladesh in the final reckoning should it come down to goal-difference or head-to-head count, but the Bangladesh coach was relieved to finally get a win.
“I’m very pleased with the performance. I think we played brilliantly today. We should have killed the game (long before the end) which we couldn’t do, but the end result is we got the victory,” the coach said in his post-match reaction.
Bangladesh will face hosts Nepal in their last match on Sunday, and a win in that could see the Red and Greens through, depending on other results.
“We will have to [win that match],” the coach said. “The boys are tired, they are giving everything they can. They will have to dig in [against Nepal] and show their character.”