Bangladesh proved that they were still superior to Bhutan after handing them a 2-0 defeat in the SAFF Suzuki Cup at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Defender Tapu Barman and striker Mahbubur Rahman Sufil struck one goal each on either side of the break to give Bangladesh their first winning start in the regional football extravaganza in the past four editions.
Bangladesh could only post one win over the past three editions, which came against Bhutan in the last edition in Kerala in 2015. The men in red and green had then beaten Bhutan 3-0 before suffering a humiliating 3-1 defeat in October 2016.
Yesterday's victory over Bhutan not only served as revenge for that humiliating defeat but also gave the hosts a morale boost after the national team's recent lean patch.
English coach Jamie Day made only two changes to his Asian Games' playing eleven, drafting in left-back Wali Faisal and goalkeeper Shahidul Islam Sohel in place of Sushanta Tripura and Ashraful Islam Rana, and the home side got off to a sparkling start after the kick-off in front of approximately 10,000 spectators.
With the crowd cheering on the boys in red and green, Bangladesh launched the first attack through the right flank with the combination of defender Bishwajit Gosh, winger Biplu Ahmed and forward Mahbubur Rahman Sufil, who ultimately shrugged off his marker and entered the box but was foiled by the defenders, who could only manage to clear it for a corner.
Saad Uddin was pushed in the back by a Bhutanese defender as he attempted to meet the ball from the flag-kick, prompting the Thai referee to blow the whistle for a penalty two minutes into the match.
Centre-back Tapu Barman, a member of the team that lost to Bhutan in 2016, stepped up and sent goalkeeper Tshering Dendup the wrong way as the home crowd went into a frenzy.
The early goal seemingly put the hosts on the back foot and Bhutan gained a foothold in midfield as they pressed for the equaliser. However, it was Bangladesh who went close to doubling their lead in the seventh minute from a counterattack which ended with Sufil failing to beat Dendup in a one-on-one situation.
Bhutan kept pressing and capitalised on the disorganised Bangladesh side but Chencho Gyeltshen squandered three opportunities to find the back of the Bangladesh net, much to the relief of custodian Sohel.
Bangladesh, who had been reduced to playing on the break, launched another good attack as Sufil nutmegged one defender before cutting back for Biplu Ahmed, but the Mohammedan winger's left-footed shot was well blocked by Dendup in the 35th minute.
Five minutes later, Bangladesh keeper Sohel misjudged the flight of a corner kick which fell to an unmarked Chencho, who missed the mark.
After resumption, Bangladesh looked more organised in every sector and deservedly doubled their lead two minutes into the second half with Sufil driving home a powerful shot from inside the box to secure the result.