Sohel Rana's 60th-minute strike gave the Bangladesh U-23 national team a 1-0 win in the first of the two-match SS Steel International Friendly Series against the visiting Nepal U-23 national team at the Army Stadium in Banani yesterday.
That one goal gave Bangladesh their first win at the international level since March 2013, when the senior national team had beaten their Nepalese counterparts in Kathmandu.
The hosts made a brisk start to the game against Nepal, who struggled to find their feet in the opening exchanges on a soggy pitch, having arrived the previous night and getting on the pitch without a practice session here.
The hosts, who had already played a few practice matches on this ground, strung some delectable passes in the midfield through Mamunul Islam, Sohel and Hemanta Vincent Bishwas to penetrate the Nepalese defence. The first brilliant move of the game came in the 16th minute when striker Yousuf Sifat, playing on the left of the three-man attack, dribbled past two players to thread it to Hemanta who cut back inside two defenders before placing a grounder at the far post, only to be denied by the outstretched hands of Nepal goalkeeper Alan Neupane.
Nepal slowly started to assert some authority in the midfield and on the half-hour mark, young striker Asim Jung Karki's ambitious bicycle kick sailed over the bar. Bangladesh had the chance to double the lead three minutes before the break when Sifat's attempted lob was fisted back to the path of Atiqur Rahman Meshu, whose snapshot from point-blank range was however too feeble to trouble the goalie.
Neither of the sides looked quite threatening as the second half was meandering along before Sohel gave the hosts the much-sought-after break. The 20-year-old midfielder, who has established himself as a key midfielder in the national side, collected a poor clearance on a Mamunul Islam corner a couple of yards in front of the box, shifted to his left foot and unleashed a powerful grounder which the brushed the hands of Neupane before nestling at the back of the net.
The goal gave the hosts the luxury of sitting back, allowing the visitors to manoeuvre the ball into the Bangladesh danger zone. Nepal should have been on level terms in the 64th minute, substitute Shyam Nepali found the ball on the edge of the Bangladesh box, but a moment of hesitation from the Nepalese midfielder allowed defender Yeasin Ahmed to clear the danger.
The game got a bit ugly as the frustrated Nepalese players came charging heavily at the hosts and despite one audacious side volley from midfielder Heman Gurung, which forced Bangladesh keeper Rasel Mahmud Liton into an acrobatic save, the visitors failed to put up mount much of a challenge.
BANGLADESH: Rasel Mahmud Liton (GK); Yeasin Khan, Atiqur Rahman Meshu, Rayhan Hasan, Topu Barman; Hemanta Vincent Biswash (Omar Faruk Babu), Mamunul Islam, Sohel Rana; Yousuf Sifat (Atikur Rahman Fahad), Wahed Ahmed (Aminur Rahman Shanjib), Toklish Ahmed (Jewel Rana) (Abdul Malek).