Booters bring back memories of Kolkata

Bangladesh played arguably their best football in recent times in a 2-1 defeat against Turkmenistan in their Asian Cup Qualifiers at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

While defeat all but ended Bangladesh chances of qualifying for next year's Asian Cup, it was a heart-warming effort from the men in red and green, with their impressive possession-based attacking football only comparable in recent times to the 1-1 draw they played out against India in a World Cup Qualifying fixture in Kolkata three years ago.

What was most impressive about yesterday's performance was the display of key attributes of the game which are missing from Bangladesh football most of the time: build-up, passing, control of possession in midfield and penetration in the attacking third.

Captain Jamal Bhuiyan once more reminded of his value to the team as he dictated the midfield with great assurance, picking key passes for Rakib Hossain, Sazzad Hossain and Mohammad Ibrahim in a three-pronged attack.

Unfortunately, the one aspect that was missing from Bangladesh's part was decisiveness and that clinical touch in front of goal. Had the efforts on goal been a bit more clinical, the result might have been very different against a side sitting 54 places above them in FIFA ranking.

Bangladesh started the game with an unchanged eleven to the one which suffered a rather respectable 2-0 defeat against the group's top-ranked side, Bahrain, three days ago. But early signs were ominous as Javier Cabrera's charges looked unsettled and came under a barrage of attacks, conceding four corner kicks within the first seven minutes. The fourth one resulted in the opening goal, with Annadurdyev Altymyrat slicing the ball into the far corner of the net on Halmammedov Rovshengeldi's curling effort.

Turkmenistan, who surprisingly lost 3-1 to hosts Malaysia in their opener, looked to have done a fair bit of homework on Bangladesh, who had conceded both goals against Bahrain from corner kicks – the first one a straight header and the second a long-range effort after the corner kick was cleared to the edge of the box.

That early goal jolted awake Bangladesh's attacking intent and they hit back immediately with Mohammad Ibrahim nodding home the equaliser five minutes later after a long throw-in from Bishwanath Ghosh. This was a first goal in five matches under Cabrera, with two of the previous matches ending in goalless draws and two others ending in 2-0 defeats.

Bangladesh almost bagged another goal from a similar situation after 36 minutes when Yeasin Arafat rose to meet Bishwanath's throw-in from the other side of the pitch. But this time a Turkmenistan defender managed to head it out for a corner

Half-chances came at both ends as Anisur Rahman Zico made a diving save to deny Rovshengeldi before Rakib's through-ball for Sazzad Hossain was brilliantly cleared inside the box as the half drew to a close.

The second half saw Turkmenistan enjoy more of the ball, but Bangladesh had more open chances, with Sazzad's glancing header from Ibrahim's cross missing the target on 54 minutes. That was the last contribution for Ibrahim, who was stretchered off the field soon and replaced by young Faisal Ahmed Fahim.

With both sides making a string of substitutions in the second half, it was Turkmenistan's changes that paid off as captain Arslan Amanov put the ball into the back of the Bangladesh net in the 77th minute following a precise cross from Altymyrat from the left side.

Bangladesh could have left the field with their first points of the campaign had Tutul Hossain Badshah not blasted the ball skywards at the far post with the goalkeeper beaten after a curling free-kick from Jamal in the last minute of regulation time, reminiscent of the one the Bangladesh captain had delivered for Saad Uddin's opening goal against India in Kolkata three years ago. But Badshah, having put in a shift at centreback, left his scoring boots in the locker room.