Hosts Bangladesh emerged Group B champions in the Bangamata U-19 Women’s International Gold Cup following a 2-1 win over Kyrgyzstan at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Sanjida Akhter and Krishna Rani Sarker scored one goal apiece before substitute Akhmatkulova Zairina pulled one back for Kyrgyzstan, who finished group runners-up to set up the first semifinal against Group A champions on April 29. Bangladesh will play the second semifinal on April 30 against the runners-up of Group A.
Having confirmed the semifinal berths, both teams came into the final match of the group to decide the group winners and hosts Bangladesh got off to a brisk start in front of some 10,000 cheering holiday spectators by taking the lead in the first minute before Kyrgyzstan settled down.
Following the kick-off, defender Akhi Khatun delivered a through-ball on the left flank where a Kyrgyzstan defender cleared it for a throw-in. Forward Krishna, receiving the throw-in, darted into the box to drive a low shot which was only half-stopped by Kyrgyzstan goalkeeper Tolonova Aichurek before unmarked Akhter tapped in from close range.
The 30-second strike gave the girls in red and green a morale boost and they kept pressing to double the lead with right-winger Sanjida and right-back Shamsunnahar penetrating down the flanks.
With Sanjida relentlessly releasing the ball from the right flank, Krishna twice came close to doubling the lead but her efforts narrowly missed the target.
Bangladesh intensified the attack down the left flank as Marzia came in place of injured striker Sirat Jahan Swapna, but Krishna was again denied by the Kyrgyzstan goalkeeper on the half-hour mark before Marzia rattled the crossbar in the 36th minute.
During the stoppage time of the first half, Monika released a defence-splitting through-pass for Marzia, who nutmegged two defenders but could not keep her shot on target.
Bangladesh kept the opposition defenders on their toes with Krishna hitting the side-netting four minutes into the second half before she finally got the second goal in the 59th minute with a header after Aichurek failed to gather a cross from Sanjida.
The Kyrgyz goalkeeper, however, denied Krishna in the 64th minute from a one-on-one situation before Kyrgyzstan pulled one goal back from a counter-attack in the 69th minute.
Zairina drove an angular shot from inside the box to beat Bangladesh goalkeeper Rupna Chakma, who might have done better to tip it over instead of trying to grip the ball.
Bangladesh sent two pairs of fresh legs with Sajeda Khatun and Tahura Khatun replacing Krishna and Sanjida. Sajeda came close to widening the margin but her flick on a chip from Shamsunnar narrowly missed the target while Tahura dribbled nicely to dance past three players before floated the balls miles over the bar.