Bangladesh's dream of lifting the SAFF Women's Championship title ended at the final hurdle as they went down to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of hosts India in the final at Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri yesterday.
The women in red and green gave the three-time champions a brilliant fight, coming back from a goal down to draw level by the end of the first half, but a double strike within five second-half minutes meant India, the predominant force in South Asian women's football, made it four titles out of four in the competition's history.
Though Bangladesh failed to break their Indian jinx and spurned a chance to write a piece of history, they did achieve their best finish in the competition -- a runners-up place -- while enthralling spectators with scintillating performances throughout the championship.
In their maiden final appearance, Bangladesh looked a bit nervous against the three-time champions, who adopted an attacking approach with three forwards -- Sasmita Malik, Indumathi Kathiresan and Kamala Devi Yumnam. The women in red and green survived a close call in the very first minute when Sasmita narrowly missed the target from a set-piece from the edge of the box.
The Indian attacking trio kept the Bangladesh backline, marshalled by Sheuli Azim, Shamsunnahar, Nargis Khatun and Masura Parvin, on its toes and forced numerous mistakes before finally capitalising on the defensive fumbles in the 12th minute. Sasmita snatched the ball from Sheuli and whipped in a cross for Dangmei, who beat goalkeeper Sabina Akter with a well-placed shot after Shamsunnahar failed to clear the cross.
Bangladesh fought back and equalised from a counter attack in the 39th minute, courtesy of a brilliant move from Swapna, who danced past three Indian defenders before beating goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan with an angled shot after being played in by a Sabina Khatun through-ball.
The visitors carried the momentum onto the other side of the break, but could hardly penetrate the opposition defence despite enjoying a spell of possession. Rather they conceded again after Nargis brought down Bala Devi inside the danger zone in the 62nd minute.
Sasmita converted the spot kick to send nearly 5,000 spectators into raptures before Indumathi took the game away from Bangladesh with a third just four minutes later, capitalising on a mistake from goalkeeper Sabina.
Bangladesh coach Golam Rabbani Choton said that conceding the penalty was the turning point of the game while questioning the decision.
"It was not penalty kick as Nargis hardly tackled the Indian player from behind, but the referee awarded it and that was the turning point of the match.
“However, I am happy with the overall performance of the girls who played tremendously well throughout the match. I think this experience will help us in the AFC U-16 Women's Championship as most of our squad comprises of players from the under-16 team," Choton said. "I think Bangladesh will perform better in next SAFF Women's Championship if we keep this group in play."