Bangladesh ended their AFC U-16 Women’s Championship campaign with a brilliant 2-2 draw against Australia, earning their first point in the history of the final round of the championship.
Fleet-footed striker Tohura Khatun was the star for the Bangladesh team, twice giving her side the lead only to see the Young Matildas fight back.
Even though Bangladesh finished bottom of the four-team group, the draw will restore some confidence in the camp, which was shattered following defeats against Thailand [1-0] and Japan [9-0].
From the beginning of the match, Bangladesh never looked like they were playing against an opponent who are much higher in women’s ranking and have drawn against Japan while thrashing Thailand 8-1. The girls in red and green, who missed a sleuth of scoring chances against Thailand and looked out of their depth against Japan, stood-toe-to toe against the Young Matildas, making up for their physical disadvantage with skill.
There were not too many chances that Bangladesh created, unlike Australia, but the two half-chances that Bangladesh created on counter-attacks were grabbed with both hands by Tohura.
The Bangladesh No. 10 raced onto a long ball from Rituporna Chakma and found the back of the net with a powerful and precise shot over onrushing Australia goalkeeper Miranda Templeman in the 20th minute.
Bangladesh goalkeeper Rupna Chakma, who was much maligned for the performances in the first two matches, redeemed herself with some assured goalkeeping to keep the Aussies at bay in the first half.
However, Australia eventually found their way back into the match in the 77th minute, with Claudia Mihocic bundling home a corner kick. Two more goals came in the next three minutes at either end, with Tohura almost replicating her first goal in the following minute with another excellent finish, this time breaking the offside trap and sliding the ball past the Australia keeper, who was hesitating to commit herself to the ball.
The Bangladesh camp burst into joy, but the joy lasted only two minutes as Paige Zois’s left-footed strike from the top of the box sneaked under the crossbar, evading the outstretched hands of Rupna.
Bangladesh lived a few nervy moments towards the end, evoking memories in the camp of a 3-2 defeat against Australia at this stage of the championship two years ago, but there were no late heartbreaks this time around.
The team’s coach Golam Rabbani Choton was happy that his players lifted themselves from the demoralising defeats and held a much-better side to a draw.
“We are very happy because today our girls showed that they can play big tournaments. The first match was disappointing and the second one was a disaster. Today they were up against a very strong side like Australia, but they played very well,” Choton said in his post-match reaction.
He gave credit to all the players for their effort. “Coming back from a nine-goal defeat against Japan to give this kind of performance against Australia deserves a lot of credit. The draw against Australia shows that we have improved from the past,” Choton said.
The veteran coach also heaped praise on Tohura, calling her a special talent and hoped that they could nurture her for even greater things.