Bangladesh boys swept into the final of the Under-18 Asia Cup Hockey for the first time after outplaying Chinese Taipei 6-1 in the last four classification match at Maulana Bhasani National Hockey Stadium on Thursday.
Drag-and-flick specialist Ashraful Islam, who netted seven goals in the group stage, added three more to his tally - all from penalty corners - while Raju Ahmed, Sajib Hossain and Fazle Hossain Rabby bagged one apiece to help the home side earn a comfortable victory.
The boys in red and green will face India in the final on Friday at 3pm. India defeated arch-rival Pakistan 3-1 in the day's other semi-final at the same venue. India were the champions of the inaugural edition in 2001. Bangladesh earlier defeated India 5-4 in their opening group stage game before thrashing Oman 10-0 in the second match to emerge as group champions from Pool A.
Bangladesh U-18 have never reached the final of an international tournament before and the last time they took part in the same competition was back in 2001 where they finished fifth among 10 teams.
The hosts' dominance was evident throughout the match, considering the number of penalty corners they accumulated. Bangladesh garnered 11 penalty corners against the visitors' three. Chinese Taipei goalkeeper Po Wen Pan made some brilliant saves to deny the home side from scoring more.
With 10 goals from only three matches, defender Ashraful is now the top scorer of the seven-nation tournament. Ashraful gave Bangladesh an early breakthrough with only three minutes into the clock, converting their first penalty corner. Chinese Taipei could have equalised the margin seven minutes later but Chung Pang Shih missed his chance from a penalty stroke.
Raju doubled the lead in the 27th minute with a field goal, placing home a Romman Sarkar hit. Chinese Taipei captain Tzu Yu Huang scored their only goal six minutes into the second half with a light flick yards away from the post.
Ashraful scored again in the 48th minute from a penalty stroke, after failing to net from six penalty corners since the opening goal. Ashraful notched his third four minutes later in what was Bangladesh's seventh penalty corner.
Team manager Kawser Ali changed most of the side in the last 15 minutes, giving the key players some rest ahead of Friday's final. In the absence of Ashraful, Sajib and Rabby added one apiece from penalty corners in the 55th and 59th minute.
(Ashraful 3, 48, 52, Raju 27, Sajib 55, Rabby 59) Chinese Taipei 1
India 3 Pakistan 1