Bangladesh's hopes of qualifying for the final round of the AFC U-23 Championship were extinguished following a 1-0 defeat against Palestine, but not before the young men in red and green gave their much superior opponents a massive run for their money in their second Group B qualifying fixture at the Khalifa City Sports Stadium in Manama yesterday.
The Bangladesh team had shown tremendous character in their 1-0 defeat against hosts Bahrain two days ago, but that was a backs-to-the-wall kind of performance where they created very few chances of their own.
However, yesterday, Jamie Day's charges survived the initial onslaught and then bossed the Palestinians throughout the second half. Had it not been for a special goal from a long-range effort, the result might have been very different.
The Bangladesh coach brought three changes to his starting eleven, with goalkeeper Pappu Hossain replacing the injured Anisur Rahman, who was the best player for Bangladesh under the bar in the first match. Rahmat Mia and Mohammad Al-Amin were also drafted in, in place of Matin Mia and Mohammad Ibrahim.
The Bangladesh team, however, were under pressure as soon as the game started, with Pappu having to make a decent save from a free-kick within the first minute. The goalkeeper was again called into action eight minutes later as he half-stopped a powerful shot, with the effort from the rebound going wide.
The Bangladesh defence proved difficult to break down, but an extraordinary effort from Palestine forward Hani Abdallah in the 22nd minute -- a fierce shot from 30 yards that swerved in the air -- undid Pappu's resistance as the ball found its way into the left-hand corner of the net.
But the goal hardly dampened the spirits of the young Bangladesh players and they launched a few attacks, most notably in the stoppage time of the first half when Mahbubur Rahman Sufil was released with a through-ball on a quick counter attack. The speedy forward released a superb cross, but the Palestine goalie intervened before the ball could reach his fellow forward Biplob Ahmed.
The young men in red and green started the second half brightly and bossed their opponents -- ranked 100th against Bangladesh's lowly 192nd in FIFA rankings for senior teams. Riyadul Hasan tried an acrobatic header that went wide in the 64th minute before Sufil's pace on a quick counter attack almost gave Bangladesh the equaliser six minutes later.
The diminutive forward sped past his marker and beautifully released a low cross for substitute Matin Mia, who rounded the Palestine goalkeeper, only to see his effort on goal cleared by a backpedalling defender.
Pappu produced an excellent one-handed save in the 90th minute against Palestine captain Oday Ibrahim while the Bangladesh players fought till the final whistle for the equaliser that never came.
Jamie Day was proud of his team's performance and felt they deserved more from this game. “We work hard as a team, maybe we are lacking a bit in creativity. It was a pretty good performance," he said after the match.
“In the two games, we pushed two very good teams. In the second half today, we were the better team and we created the better chances. We needed to take those chances. I thought we deserved something out of this game. But the work rate and the way they played, I can't praise them high enough," the Bangladesh coach said.