Jibon gave an early lead with a delightful finish before substitute striker Sufil sealed victory in the late stage to script Bangladesh’s first win over Nepal in five years
Bangladesh made a cheerful return to competitive football after a long Covid-19 pause as they defeated Nepal 2-0 in the first friendly of the two-game Mujib Barsho Fifa International Football Series 2020 at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka Friday.
Nabib Newaj Jibon gave an early lead with a delightful finish before substitute striker Mahbubur Rahman Sufil sealed victory in the late stage to script Bangladesh’s first win over Nepal in five years.
During the last meeting between the two neighbors, Nepal won by similar margin during the Saff Championship 2018 at the same venue.
The previous encounter ended in a goalless draw at the Bangabandhu Gold Cup 2016 after Bangladesh had won a friendly at the end of 2015.
The friendly series was announced last month in a bid to bring football back to the region after a hiatus of nearly eight months as no competitive game took place due to the Covid-19 pandemic in either country.
Fitness of the players had been a major concern due to the unexpected long break but it didn’t appear to be a problem in the opening half as Jamal Bhuiyan led the local side with aplomb.
Striker Suman Reza made his international debut but couldn’t impress much and was replaced soon after the break.
Anisur Rahman Zico replaced Ashraful Islam Rana between the posts to make his second appearance in a red and green jersey.
Abahani Limited striker Jibon stole the first-half show starting as a No 9.
It was his cheeky sliding finish at the near post that broke the deadlock in just 10 minutes.
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The goal was credited to Jibon but Saad Uddin must get equal plaudits for his sumptuous assist.
Saad cut inside his marker brilliantly to deliver a low cross for his club-mate.
The host controlled the midfield in the first-half and piled pressure on the opponent mainly on the right wing where Saad looked full of life.
Nepal, despite missing eight players due to Covid-19 including key defenders, tried to stay calm with long crosses and counter attacks on occasions.
Jamie Day’s disciples went close four more times.
Mohammad Ibrahim saw his effort from a Jibon cross blocked before Topu Barman headed wide and Manik Mollah rattled the crossbar with a 25-yard strike, all before the half-hour mark.
Jibon had another opportunity from Saad’s cross but volleyed over.
Nepal forward Nawayug Shrestha had his chance but shot straight at Zico from the top of the box.
The visiting side missed the service of key team members including striker Bimal Gharti Magar, midfielder Rohit Chand and defender Devendra Tamang.
It could have been worse when Bikram Lama too left the pitch injured before the break.
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Nepal however, made a better impact in the second half despite the fact that they had one-week less preparation time than the host.
In the 57th minute, Ravishankar Paswan squandered a big chance after receiving a deflected cross inside the box but shot over.
Substitute striker Bharat Khawas headed over following a free-kick before Zico made a finger-tip save to deny Ananta Tamang’s header in the 78th minute.
Day made as many as five changes but couldn’t carry the same performance from the previous half, except Sufil, who replaced Sumon and doubled the lead in the 80th minute after collecting a lob from Sohel Rana to break into the danger zone before slotting home at the far post.
Only one-third of total capacity amounting to 8,000 spectators were allowed to watch the game but it seemed a bit more in the stands.
The fans came to the venue with “Football is back” banner to cheer the home side.
It was the first official match at the BNS since the annulled Bangladesh Premier League match between Abahani Limited and Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad Krira Chakra on March 15.
Bangladesh played their last international game at the same venue against Burundi in the Bangabandhu Gold Cup 2020 on January 23.
Bangladesh and Nepal will take on each other in the second friendly Tuesday at the same venue.
Bangladesh 2 (Jibon 10, Sufil 80) 0 Nepal
Bangladesh: Anisur Rahman Zico; Topu Barman (Yeasin Khan 84), Riyadul Hasan, Rahmat Mia, Bishwanath Ghosh; Manik Hossain (Sohel Rana 59), Jamal Bhuiyan (Atiqur Rahman Fahad 59), Saad Uddin, Mohammad Ibrahim, Nabib Newaj Jibon (Rabiul Hasan 62); Sumon Reza (Mahbubur Rahman Sufil 45)
Nepal: Kiran Kumar; Ajit Bhandari, Ananta Tamang, Suman Aryal, Bikash Khawas; Bikram Lama, Tej Tamang, Anjan Bista, Sujal Shrestha, Ravishankar Paswan; Nawayug Shrestha