Bangladesh advanced into the second round (group stages) of the joint qualifiers for 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup with a 1-0 aggregate win over Laos following a goalless draw in the second leg of the first round at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
The aggregate win earned them a place in the 40-team second round of qualification, ensuring at least eight more international matches over next one year and brushing aside fears of exile from the FIFA/AFC sanctioned competition for the next three years.
A draw was good enough for Bangladesh to seal their progression, but they could have left the field with another win against Laos, who provided the hosts with some nervous moments in the latter part of the game.
Jaime Day brought two changes from the first leg, drafting in midfielders Mamunul Islam and Rabiul Hasan in place of Matin Mia and Arifur Rahman, but the men in red and green looked a little nervous in the beginning before gradually gaining confidence in front of some 10,000-strong home crowd at big bowl.
Laos, trailing 1-0 from the first leg, pressed hard with better ball possession early, but they could not trouble the Bangladesh defence, marshalled by Yeasin Khan, Tutul Hossain Badsha, Rahmat Mia and Bishwanath Ghosh, who held firm and conceded as few set-pieces from danger zone as possible.
Bangladesh created a couple of scoring chances in the first half but the forwards could not capiatlise on those chances.
It was Bangladesh who launched the first attack in the 17th minute when holding midfielder Mashuk Mia Jonny put a forward pass to Nabib Newaj Jibon, who however mustered a feeble attempt at the near post, only to be gathered easily by Laos by goalkeeper Xaysavath.
Six minutes later, Bangladesh looked in trouble when Yeasin’s intended back-pass to goalkeeper Ashraful Islam Rana was a slow one, but Rana hared off the line to make a timely clearance. In the next minute, Jibon came close to breaking the deadlock, but the Laos goalkeeper was equal to the task.
Bangladesh started to control possession in midfield and Rabiul put a nice lob inside the box in the 38th minute for Jibon, who saw his chip over the advancing goalkeeper miss the target by a few yards.
After resumption, Bangladesh coach sent Mohammad Ibrahim in place of Biplo Ahmed on the right side and the winger released a well-judged cross in the 53rd minute for Jibon with the goalkeeper to beat, but the Abahani striker headed wide as the easiest chance of the match went begging.
Laos showed more intent in search of the lead in a bid to push the match into extra-time, but the Bangladesh defence held firm despite conceding a few set-pieces including two corner-kicks.
Shrugging off the pressure, Bangladesh once again came close to taking the lead but substitute Mahbubur Rahman Sufil could not connect to a low cross from Jibon in the 78th minute before Mohammad Ibrahim failed to connect to a cross from Sohel Rana two minutes from time. The missed chances did not come back to haunt the hosts though as they held on to a goalless draw for earning a monumental aggregate win.