Four goals in the first 40 minutes of the match, three of which came from set-pieces, inflicted a second-consecutive 0-4 defeat on hosts Bangladesh in the AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers at the Bangabandhu National Stadium. The Bangladesh youths, who were humbled by Syria in the opening match on Friday, suffered another humiliation second-string Uzbekistan under-23 side at the Big Bowl yesterday, as the qualification race narrowed down between Syria and Uzbekistan.
The Syrians, who handed a 4-0 defeat to India earlier in the day, sat on top of Group E with six points, staying above Uzbekistan on superior goal difference, as India and Bangladesh occupied the third and fourth positions respectively with zero points so far. The battle between the automatic qualification spot will be decided tomorrow when the Syrians take on Uzbekistan, while both Bangladesh and India will hope to salvage some pride when they face-off in the last match of this qualification campaign at 6:00pm.
Uzbekistan made six changes to their starting eleven, resting three of their star players Igor Serjeev, Vladimir Kozak and Jamshid Iskanderov. Bangladesh, on the other hand, welcomed back key midfielder Hemanta Vincent Biswas, who had missed the first match through suspension, in place of Omar Faruk Babu, while wingback Shakil Ahmed replaced winger Yousuf Sifat.
But those changes hardly made a difference for either side as the hosts were on the backfoot right from the word go and paid dearly for their inability to defend set-pieces efficiently. In the match against Syria Bangladesh had conceded two goals from set-pieces inside the opening quarter of an hour. And there were hardly any signs of improvement as two free-kicks resulted in two goals within the first 13 minutes of the match.
“We have conceded six goals from set-pieces in two matches and I cannot find a reason why,” exclaimed awe-struck Bangladesh coach Lodewijk de Kruif at the end of the match.
“We trained and showed the players video footage of how to react while defending set-pieces, but they made the same mistakes on the pitch. When they take to the field, their behavior changes and they make stupid mistakes,” added the Dutchman.
It took only three minutes for Uzbekistan to find the back of the net after a clumsy challenge from defensive midfielder Atiqur Rahman Fahad on an Uzbekistan forward earned them a free-kick on the edge of the box. Masharipov Jaloliddin stepped up and curled the ball past the wall and into the right-hand corner of the net, with goalkeeper Rasel Mahmud Liton helpless.
Jaloliddin then turned the provider for the second goal in the 13th minute as his curling free-kick was headed in by Javlon Mirabdulaev. The Uzbeks further increased the margin in the 29th minute; this time Jaloliddin's looping corner was headed over a host of defenders and into the far corner by Sardor Rakhmanov.
The visitors had to wait for another 11 minutes to get their first goal from open play. This time a cross from the left flank was nodded in with utmost ease by Abbosek Makhstaliev as the Bangladesh defence was caught napping.
The hosts seemed more organised at the back in the second half and managed to keep the visitors at bay for the entire half. Uzbekistan earned four free-kicks from dangerous positions in the second half but failed to keep those shots on target. Both teams were reduced to ten men in the course of the second half as the game became more physical. Uzbekistan midfielder Shagulyamov Alisher received a straight red card for retaliating to a challenge from Topu Barman in the 55th minute, before Bangladesh skipper Raihan Hasan got his marching orders for pulling down Makhstaliev, through on goal on the edge of the box, in the 69th minute.
Syria brush aside India
In the first match of the day, Syria rode on a brace each from Omar Kharbin and Mahmoud Almawas to hand India a 4-0 defeat. The Syrians dominated the match with ball possession and excellent control and kept the ball firmly confined in India's half for most of the match.
The West Asian nation went ahead in the 15th minute, courtesy of a strike from Almawas, who scored after a brilliant exhibition of one-touch football from his teammates. The lead was doubled in stoppage time of the first half and this time Kharbin headed home a cross from Nassou Nakkdahli.
Kharbin then struck his second of the day and fourth of this championship on the hour-mark shortly before India were reduced to ten men. Almawas's second strike in the 83rd minute completed the rout and put the Syrians in pole position for qualification.