The two-match SS Steel International Friendly Series ended all square after hosts Bangladesh U-23 suffered a 0-1 defeat against their Nepalese counterparts at the Sylhet District Stadium yesterday.
Substitute midfielder Sushil KC struck the all-important goal for Nepal in the 78th minute to beat the hosts, who had won the first match of the series by the same scoreline in Dhaka on Tuesday.
However, it was not the match itself but the mismanagement on the part of the local organisers, the uneven playing surface and the feisty attitude from both sets of players that marked the first international football match held in Sylhet.
The organisers, who had allegedly sold more than 10,000 tickets above the 25,000-capacity, struggled to get a grip on the number of spectators waiting to enter the stadium. At one point, thousands of frenzied spectators broke through the main gate and thronged by the touchline, forcing a one-hour delay to the start of the match.
Once the match started, the visitors controlled proceedings and almost snatched a lead in the 10th minute, but midfielder Bhola Nath Silwal's tame effort from close range let the visitors down. The visitors had the upper hand in the first half in terms of possession but they could hardly break the backline of Bangladesh, who fielded the same squad from the one that beat Nepal in the first match.
The match had an ugly look about it all through as players of both sides, especially the hosts, were committing dangerous fouls and argued over every decision referee Jasim Uddin made.
The hosts appeared to better composed from the start of the second half, even though the striking pair -- Wahed Ahmed and Toklish Ahmed, both from Sylhet -- failed to pose much of a threat to the opposition.
However, the hosts were unlucky not to take the lead in the 64th minute when midfielder Hemanta Vincent Biswas's powerful shot from 25 yards out came off the crossbar. Nepal, though, found the goal they were desperate for in the 78th minute when Rabin Shrestha's cross from the left was turned in beautifully with a left-footed drive by Sushil which zoomed past Bangladesh goalkeeper Liton to the near post.
The hosts, who had made a number of changes in the second half, failed to create any goals-coring chances in the rest of the match, leaving the frenzied spectators with little to cheer about and more importantly, a big question mark over their preparation for the upcoming Asian Games.
Bangladesh's head Coach Lodewijk de Kruif blamed the players for not concentrating too much on the game.
“I'm very disappointed with the performance of our players. My motto is to protect my players because they are like my children, but today they were not ready to play in front of 40 to 50 thousand people,” said the Dutchman, who however gave credit to the Nepalese and felt they deserved the victory.