Bangladesh's bid to play in the SAFF Women's Championship final got a huge boost when the women in red and green handed a 2-0 defeat to Bhutan in their group opener, securing a semifinal berth in the process at the Sahid Rangsala in Biratnagar, Nepal yesterday.
Vice-captain Misrat Jahan Moushumi headed the youthful Bangladesh side into the lead one minute into the second half before captain Sabina Khatun struck a spectacular goal four minutes from time to ensure their third successive semifinal appearance in the regional football extravaganza. Meanwhile Bhutan, who suffered a 0-3 defeat at the hands of Nepal before yesterday's loss, were sent packing.
Nine years ago, Bangladesh had notched a 9-0 victory over Bhutan, their biggest margin of victory over the side, but yesterday's match was not as easy. Bangladesh toiled hard to break Bhutan's well-organised defence on an uneven ground, which made it difficult for the women in red and green to control the ball.
Although the charges of Golam Rabbani Choton had better ball possession, they could not build up play from behind as intended with U-16 team captain Maria Manda looking off-colour in the middle, leaving Monica Chakma with the responsibility.
Monica tried to pull the strings from midfield with wingers Shamsunnahar and Moushumi whipping in crosses from both flanks, however, they hardly bothered Bhutan's backline, who negotiated well to keep Bangladesh's strike pair -- Sirat Jahan Swapna and Sabina -- at bay in the first half.
With Bhutan's defenders thwarting Bangladesh's forwards, defender Akhi Khatun stepped up to break the backline, placing a long ball behind the line. However, after such an effort in the 13th minute, Bangladesh came close to taking the lead but Swapna floated her shot over the advancing goalkeeper in a one-on-one situation.
On the half-hour mark, it was again Swapna who narrowly missed in her attempt to connect with a Maria Manda corner within handshaking distance from the post before Sabina saw her dipping shot go inches wide of the crosspiece in the 36th minute.
With BFF technical and strategic director Paul Smalley shouting instructions from the dugout, Sabina then hammered a shot towards the near post but only to have it gripped by Bhutan goalkeeper Sangita Monger in the 36th minute.
After resumption, Bangladesh took one minute to break the deadlock with Moushumi heading in a Monica corner following a goal-mouth-melee. Tahura Khatun then came on in place of Sanjida Akter but the U-16 striker disappointed as she squandered her chances, failing to tap one home in front of an open net after Sabina released a fine square-pass before availing a forward-pass from Sheuli Azim only to drive one wide after beating the goalkeeper in the 90th minute.
In between Tahura's efforts, captain Sabina scored a superb goal with a solo effort as the prolific striker danced past two players to enter the box from the left side and hammer home an angular shot past goalkeeper Sangita in the 86th minute.