Bangladesh started their 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers campaign with a 1-0 loss against Afghanistan at the Central Republic Stadium in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Tuesday.
A 27th-minute header from Afghanistan captain Farshad Noor proved to be the difference between the sides, giving Afghanistan their second win over Bangladesh in two days after their cricket team outclassed Bangladesh in a Test match in Chattogram on Monday.
Bangladesh did respond better in the second half after being completely outplayed in the first, but they were not able to break down a more organised Afghan defence. They appeared more energetic and it appeared an evenly balanced match. However, Bangladesh’s impatience to get rid of the ball in the attacking third instead of constructing meaningful attacks meant that there were no real opportunities created in regulation time.
Around the 75-minute mark skipper Jamal Bhuiyan unleashed a fine free kick from the left but Nabib Newaj Jibon could not connect with the header.
There was one clear chance in the third minute of injury time when Saad Uddin played back-heel to Jibon inside the box with only the goalkeeper to beat, but instead of taking a shot, the forward tried to dribble past the goalie and paid the price as he was tackled from behind and lost the ball.
The clock soon ran out on the game, leaving Afghanistan deserved winners. Bangladesh’s next match is against Qatar at the Bangabandhu National Stadium on October 10.
In the first half, apart from the first five minutes or so when Bangladesh mounted a few offences, it was Afghanistan who did all the attacking in the first half, making numerous forays into or near the opposition box with quick passing and bursts of speed. It was, however, a set piece -- a free kick taken in the 27th minute from about 10 yards away from the box – that resulted in the first goal when Afghan captain Farshad Noor headed in the volley. Bangladfesh keeper Ashraful Islam Rana got a hand to it, but the ball deflected off the top post and fond the back of the net.
In stark contrast to their opponents in the first half, the Bangladesh booters were listless, missing a lot of passes and spending most of the time trying to compensate for their errors and struggling for possession.
Having taken the lead, Afghanistan did not relent on the attack and kept pressing a nervous and increasingly disorganised Bangladesh back line. A few opportunities were created but none more enticing than the one Shayesteh headed wide of the near post from an almost point-blank distance after being fed a curling cross from the right flank in the 34th minute.
During the first minute of the first half’s injury time, it was Shayesteh who put in a nice ground ball into the box from the right, and with goalkeeper Ashraful Islam Rana stranded, Afghanistan forward Jabar Sharza’s shot went wide of the near post again. Missed chances notwithstanding, Afghanistan had ensured that Bangladesh reached the break not thinking of equalising, but trying to minimise the damage from an energetic Afghan frontline.