An unmarked Cyprus-based Afghanistan midfielder Farshad Noor acquired plenty of space inside the box while heading home Omid Popalzay’s free-kick to score the all-important goal in the 27th minute
Bangladesh began their 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Joint Qualification Group E campaign with a 1-0 defeat against Afghanistan at the latter side’s neutral home venue of Pamir Stadium in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe Tuesday.
An unmarked Cyprus-based Afghanistan midfielder Farshad Noor acquired plenty of space inside the box while heading home Omid Popalzay’s free-kick to score the all-important goal in the 27th minute.
Goalkeeper Ashraful Islam Rana dived to his left and although his outstretched hand could touch the ball, it ricocheted off the woodwork before bouncing into the net.
The higher-ranked Afghans with their much better physical capacities and technical prowess could not however, add any goal after that, rather the men in red and green almost snatched a point at the twilight of the encounter.
A big penalty appeal of Bangladesh was denied three minutes into injury time when striker Nabib Newaj Jibon was charged at the edge of the six-yard box following a back-heel of Yeasin Khan, but the referee Lei Zhang waved away the plea of a spot kick.
Jamie Day made three changes in the starting XI from their last international match, a goalless draw against Laos, three months ago with Sohel Rana, Mohammad Ibrahim and Saad Uddin coming in for Masuk Mia Jony, Mamunul Islam and Robiul Hasan.
Afghanistan looked more comfortable on the artificial turf than their counterparts and their ball control, passing, movement and crosses were better than that of Bangladesh, who struggled to get much possession during the opening half.
Sohel conceded an unnecessary foul outside the box in the ninth minute but forward Faysal Shayesteh’s free-kick went too wide.
Bangladesh defence could have done better with the goal just before the half-hour mark, but to their credit, they came back with a more compact display in the rest of the game.
Rana, who was somewhat guilty of conceding the goal, made some sort of redemption by a brilliant save at the near post nine minutes into the second half, denying forward Zubayr Amiri’s dangerous run and left-footed effort from the left side of the box.
Day made two substitutions in the attacking half with youngster Robiul, who scored two international goals this year against Laos and Cambodia, coming off the bench in the 56th minute replacing Biplu Ahmed, while Mahbubur Rahman Sufil also got some game time when he replaced Ibrahim in the 74th minute.
Under the tutelage of Day, Bangladesh have shown a lot of tenacity, and improved their ability of keeping the stamina till the last moments of the game, and it was once again evident.
There were more Bangladesh movements inside Afghanistan terrain during the latter stages of the game but no organized build-up or concrete attack were seen until that penalty appeal in the dying moments.
Bangladesh, who drew only one and lost seven in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, will host Asian champion Qatar in their next group match at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on October 10.