Defending champions Bangladesh stormed into the final of the SAFF U-15 Women's Championship with a commanding 5-0 win over hosts Bhutan in the second semifinal at the Changlimithang Stadium yesterday.
The girls in red and green will play Saturday's final against India, who advanced on the back of a hard-fought 2-1 win over Nepal in the first semifinal at the same venue.
Anai Mogini, Anuching Mogini and Saraban Tahura struck one goal apiece in the first half before captain Maria Manda and substitute Shaheda Akhter Ripa found the back of the net in the second half to notch up another easy win over Bhutan, who had suffered a 3-0 defeat to Bangladesh in the previous edition of the championship.
Before the match against Bhutan in front of their home crowd, a cloud of anxiety of a possible upset had engulfed Bangladesh's fans. However, the girls shrugged off all those fears with an outstanding performance and took control of the match from the onset with their two brilliant midfielders, Maria and the fit-again Monica Chakma, controlling the game from midfield.
Goalkeeper Mahmuda Khatun did not face any challenge in the first half and gripped the ball only once as the Bangladesh backline held firm and proved too strong for the Bhutanese, who failed to create any notable chances against a far superior side.
Bangladesh initially launched attacks from the right flank through Shamsunnahar Sr, who blitzed through the defence and released a few good balls. However, striking duo Tahura and Anuching failed to cash in on those opportunities before right-back Anai broke the deadlock with a 25-yarder in the 18th minute after the ball came her way following a corner.
Bangladesh kept pressing in search of another and cornered the home side in their half as they had done to Pakistan and Anuching, Anai's twin, doubled the lead with a spectacular side-volley from outside the box in the 38th minute after a Bhutanese defender failed to clear a lob from Nilufar Yesmin Nila.
Five minutes later, Tahura made it 3-0. Akhi Khatun released Sajeda Akter on the right side with a long ball and the winger won the ball against Bhutan goalkeeper Kinzang Dema before squaring it to an unmarked Tahura, who tapped home.
Bhutan looked a bit better after resumption and sporadically pressed for goals but they could not find a way through Bangladesh's defence. Instead it was the visitors who added two goals, with Maria catching the eye with a spectacular effort from outside the box before Shaheda availed a forward pass and fed Shamsunnahar Jr, who slotted home from inside the box to ensure Bangladesh's unbeaten record against Bhutan and to secure the team's second consecutive final in the SAFF U-15 Women's Championship.