Nepal prolonged Bangladesh's wait for an elusive Saff Championship final to more than 16 years
Bangladesh’s dream of reaching the Saff Championship final was shattered with a late penalty goal of Nepal Wednesday at Male National Stadium in Maldives.
Bangladesh had to win the match, their last in the group, and were leading by 1-0 till the 87th minute, when the referee controversially awarded a penalty to Nepal, who went through to the final for the first time in history thanks to the 1-1 draw.
Bangladesh players protested the decision as it seemed Saad Uddin’s push in the box was not obvious, but the referee paid no heed and Anjan Bista converted the spot kick to give Nepal their seventh point of the tournament.
Bangladesh ended with five.
The men in red and green played with 10 men in the last 11 minutes of the game as goalkeeper Anisur Rahman Zico was shown a red card after coming out of the box and committing a handball.
Despite having less ball possession and overall passes, Bangladesh made a brilliant start in the game by altering their formation from 4-1-4-1 to 4-4-2.
Skipper Jamal Bhuiyan took a free kick from just outside the left corner of the box and the shot deflected off a Nepal defender to Sumon Reza, who made no mistake slotting the ball in the corner of the net through a header.
Saad got a great chance five minutes later but his header went off the post.
Nepal got a chance in the 15th minute but Rohit Chand’s shot went off the post, while Bangladesh’s Rakib Hossain’s shot went off the bar in the other side of the field four minutes later.
Sumon, in pursuit of his second goal entered into the box during the 22nd minute and took a shot himself rather than passing to Mohammad Ibrahim, but his weak effort was easily gripped by keeper Kiron Kumar.
Nepal became more dominant and desperate, while Bangladesh looked to focus on defence after the break.
The Himalayan team continued their barrage of attacks but Zico stood like a wall as he saved several attempts in the first 10 minutes of the half.
Sumon wasted another opportunity in the 55th minute, Ibrahim’s header went over the cross bar in the 66th minute, while Zico showcased his heroics in the 65 minute with another one-handed save.
However, Zico’s red card made things tougher for Oscar Bruzon-coached side but they seemed to get over the line before the controversial decision.
Bangladesh last played in a Saff final back in 2005 and were just a few minutes away from getting the berth 16 years later.
Bruzon, the coach of Bashundhara Kings - the most successful club in the domestic arena for the last few years - was endowed the responsibility of the national side just a week before the tournament, and they made a good start beating Sri Lanka before yielding an inspirational 1-1 draw against India.
They then lost to hosts Maldives 2-0 in the third game.
Bangladesh XI: Anisur Rahman Zico, Bishwanath Ghosh, Topu Barman, Tareq Raihan Kazi, Tutul Hossain Badshah, Jamal Bhuiyan, Mohammad Ibrahim, Biplo Ahmed, Suman Reza, Rakib Hossain, Saad Uddin, subs - Sohel Rana, Matin Miah, Ashraful Islam Rana