Football's dream fulfilled
Bangladesh outplayed Afgha-nistan 4-0 at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday to win the football title of the 11th South Asian Games for the second time. Two goals in each half gave the hosts the gold in the most lopsided of finals in the 26-year history of the Games.
Bangladesh's second triumph came in their sixth final appearance and after a long wait of eleven years since Kathmandu in 1999. This victory will go someway in mitigating the scar of the SAFF Championship two months ago.
The boys under a new Serbian coach Zoran Djordjevic, have looked immaculate throughout the competition, and it seemed that they had saved their best for the final. They did not give the opposition an iota of a chance in ninety minutes of play. The Afghan booters, who themselves had looked very organised and professional up to the final, never looked like a decent opposition in the match.
Overwhelmed by the occasion and in presence of a capacity partisan crowd, the Afghans failed to produce anything in terms of either individual skill or team effort. Their long-ball game took them only as far as their own half, and they also failed to make their superior physical presence count. The prolific Afghan striker in the tournament Belal Arezou was closely marked down by the impregnable Bangladesh defence. On the other hand, Bangladesh's beautiful passing, movement and near-precise shooting was a reflection of superior skill and strategy.
Bangladesh made most of the running from the very beginning and got on the scoresheet just 17 minutes into the match through Atiqur Rahman Meshu. It started with a mazy run towards the box by Nasirul Islam where he was brought down by an Afghan defender. After a double-dummy, Wali Faisal took a swerving freekick on which a host of Bangladesh players converged. Meshu leapt high from an unmarked position and headed into the net past the keeper's outstretched hands.
Bangladesh's prolific striker Enamul Haque had been targeting the opposition net for some time. He tried an acrobatic bicycle kick from the edge of the box, but it missed the target.
The second goal came on the half hour mark after a delightful one-two between Enamul and Shakil Ahmed. Enamul provided the ball on the right side of the goal to which the Afghan keeper Bashir Ahmad did not make an advance. It fell to Shakil who provided a lob for Enamul. The in-form striker was not to miss with an open net and the scoreline became 2-0.
His partner Zahid Hasan Ameli though missed one when he was left unmarked in front of goal, but his headed went skywards.
Afghanistan made some pressing early in the second half and Bangladesh custodian Aminul Haque had to make a brilliant diving save to deny them a opening.
After a brief period in which Afghans looked in some rhythm, Bangladesh again took the exerted their dominance. Twenty four minutes into the second half Abdul Baten Mojumder Komol, who had substituted injured Md. Yousuf earlier, made it 3-0 for Bangladesh. From a Meshu freekick, the ball fell for Komol in the goal mouth melee, he took position and instead of going for power, slotted it modestly into the top corner of near post. Bangladesh had the title firmly in their grasp by then, but to their credit, they never put the feet off the gas. And an inevitable fourth goal came two minutes before end of regulation time from Tawhidul Alam Sabuz, the scorer of the winning goal against India in the semifinal. A goalbound shot from Komol was half stopped by the keeper and an attempted clearance from a defender feel kindly to the head of Sabuz who had the easiest job of poking it in. Soon enough, referee blew the final whistle to bring about a richly-deserved moment for the booters and fans to exult.
BANGLADESH: Aminul Haque, Nasirul Islam Nasir, Wali Faisal, Mintu Sheikh, Rezaul Karim, Atiqur Rahman Meshu, Md. Yousuf (Abdul Baten Mojumder Komol), Mamunul Islam Mamun, Enamul Haque (Mithun Chowdhury), Zahid Hasan Ameli (Tawhidul Alam Sabuz), Shakil Ahmed.
AFGHANISTAN: Belal Arezou, Bashir Ahmad Darman (GK) (Fraidon Khatebi), Tooryalai Hakimi, Faisal Sakhi Zada, Zohib Islam, Moqaddar Qazizada, Masihullah Barakzia, Hashmatullah Hussaini, Faqir Hussain Hussaini, Zakria Rezai, Wahid Nadeem.