‘Tough to play three matches in seven days’
Even though Bangladesh's interim coach Oscar Bruzon blamed the fatigue for their defeat against Maldives, the men in red and green were, no doubt, outplayed by the quality of Maldivian footballers, who had been superior in terms of skills, tactics and its execution.
Under the guidance of the Spanish coach, Bangladesh have been trying to play possession football in the ongoing regional football extravaganza and the improvements were evident against Sri Lanka and India, where the charges of Bruzon nicely controlled the midfield while keeping the backline solid.
However, the plan did not work against Maldives, who outshone Bangladesh by their composure of holding the ball and creating goal-scoring opportunities in presence of a familiar home environment.
Ali Ashfaq, Ali Fasir, Hamza Mohamed, Niaz Hassan, Hussain Nihaan and others were exceptional upfront and the Bangladesh defence were made to toil before Hamza put Maldives ahead with a brilliant overhead kick after which Ashfaq doubled the lead from a penalty.
Bangladesh manager Satyajit Das Rupu seemingly denied that Maldives' players are better than Bangladesh's, rather, pointing at fatigue for the latest off day at the field.
"I think the first 30 to 35 minutes of the match looked even because they could not put any pressure on Bangladesh during that period. Last five to six minutes of the first half, we were a bit under pressure because of the positional mistakes.
"After the break, the coach briefed the players to avoid repeating those mistakes. I think the first goal was an unbelievable strike that gave them a big advantage and Maldives gained the momentum from the lead," opined Rupu.
"We had a bad day yesterday [Thursday] as our players were tired playing three matches in seven days," added the former national player.
Defender Rahmat Mia also believes that it was fatigue, caused by a hectic fixture, that had led his side to underperform.
"Similar to how we performed against Sri Lanka and India, our game plan was to keep the midfield compact first and then launch attacks but it didn't work well," said Rahmat Mia who played as right-winger against Maldives instead of his usual left-back position.
"I think we lacked energy because it was really tough to play three matches in seven days. It wasn't like the Bangladesh Premier League, where we could somewhat relax in between matches.
"That's why our performance was a bit down against Maldives," said Rahmat who believes they can overcome their fatigue well in a five-day break before the match against Nepal.
"Before the match, we knew that we could confirm our spot in the final through a win. If not possible, then we would look to return with a point at least. But anyway, none of us are morally down for not achieving those targets against Maldives.
Still, we are in with a chance and we believe that if we win against Nepal, then we can reach the final. So we are fully focused solely on that objective," said a confident Rahmat Mia, who has been enjoying a two-day lay-off, except for swimming and gym sessions, along with teammates to recharge for their last group match, virtually a semi-final match for Bangladesh.