Bangladesh’s dream run in the ongoing SAFF Championship came to an abrupt end on Saturday when they suffered a 0-2 defeat against Nepal in their third and final group A match to be eliminated from the tournament.
Goalkeeper Sahidul Islam made a major blunder in the 33rd minute as he failed to grip a free-kick ball of Nepal’s forward Bimal Gharti Magar which put the visitors ahead at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
Substitute Nawayug Shrestha silenced some 15,000 home crowd, scoring Nepal’s second goal in the 90th minute that confirmed Bangladesh’s exit from the group stage.
This was Bangladesh’s fourth consecutive first round exit from the regional competition having last played in the semi-final 2009 in the home soil.
Bangladesh, who earlier secured two successive victories in the tournament, defeating Bhutan and Pakistan, 2-0 and 1-0 respectively, needed only a draw to progress.
But the defeat of the home side meant Nepal advanced as group champions alongside Pakistan who earlier thrashed Bhutan 3-0 in the day’s first game.
All three team’s ended with equal six points but Nepal and Pakistan progressed by virtue of better goal average.
Bangladesh, who fielded an unchanged side from their last 1-0 win over Pakistan, however, had the control of the match with better passing in the first half as they tried to build-up their attacks through the wings.
Midfielder Mamunul Islam tried to give long through passes from the middle but Bangladeshi forwards disappointed the fans with their poor skills as they failed to find the nets.
In the 22nd minute, Mamunul provided a great through ball to striker Saad Uddin but the forward failed to reach the ball inside the box.
Goalkeeper Sahidul’s mistake in the 33rd minute made Bangladeshi players demoralised and they provided dismal show in the remaining minutes of the first half.
Nepal started to take control of the match as they made several attempts to get inside the box and in the 36th minute, Sujal Shrestha made a header from the centre of the box which went over the crossbar.
Bangladesh made their first shot on target in the 42nd minute when Tutul Hosain Badsha made a left footed shot from outside the box but it was saved by Nepali goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu.
Bangladesh made two changes few minutes in the second half as they brought Sohel Rana and Shakawat Hossain Rony in place of Biplu Islam and Saad to put more pressure on Nepal.
However, overprotective Nepal didn’t make any silly mistake like Bangladesh did in the first half and they tried to play counter-attacks more often and made several chances.
Bangladesh’s poor conversion rate from the midfield also made them suffer as they failed to get into the box to break Nepali defense.
In the 80th minute, substitute Shakawat made a left footed shot from outside the box which went just a bit high, breaking a jam-packed Bangabandhu Stadium crowd’s hearts.
A Nepali goal was cancelled out in 82nd minute for offside but an assist from Bishal Rai from outside the box, which Nawayug swiftly converted into the goal, took the side to semi-final after five years.
Nepal will now take on Group B runner-up side while Pakistan will meet Group B champions in the semi-final encounters.
Bangladesh 0 v Nepal 2
(Bimal Gharti Magar 33, Nawayug Shrestha 90)
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