A fortunate strike from Biplu Ahmed helped Bangladesh get off to a winning stat in the Bangabandhu Gold Cup as the hosts handed a single-goal defeat to Laos in the tournament opener at the Sylhet District Stadium yesterday.
A 60th-minute strike from the local boy not only took the hosts close to the semifinals, giving the crowd enough reason to cheer, but also gave Bangladesh their first victory over Laos in their meeting.
It was Bangladesh's third win in four matches, coming as a relief to the team following their group-stage exit from the SAFF Championship last month.
Coach Jamie Day made only two changes to the side that lost against Nepal in the crucial SAFF Championship match, with midfielder Rabiul Islam and striker Nabib Newaj Jibon coming in place of Mamunul Islam and injured Saad Uddin to form in an a 4-4-2 formation instead of a 4-2-3-1.
The men in red and green started the game brilliantly as the striking pair of Jibon and Mahbubur Rahman Sufil exposed the opposition defence with darting runs.
Both strikers came close to breaking the deadlock a couple of times inside the first 20 minutes, with Laos also getting a good opportunity in the early stage. However, neither Sufil nor Jibon could cash on on those chances despite staying in threatening positions.
Availing a through-pass in the 11th minute, Jibon ran down the left flank before mustering a powerful shot on the edge of the box which went narrowly wide of target while Sufil found the ball inside the box in the 25th minute with only the goalkeeper to beat, but the promising striker drove miles off target.
Jibon found Laos goalkeeper Saymanolinh Pasemuth on a one-on-one situation again, but deposited the ball straight to the goalkeeper to frustrate the almost full-house crowd before Laos threatened to break with some good attacks.
Phithack Kongmathilath nutmegged defender Wali Faisal with goalkeeper Ashraful Islam Rana to beat but Bangladesh were lucky as centre-back Tapu Barman thwarted the goal-bound shot for a corner in the 33rd minute. Bounphachan Bounkong beat defenders Bishwanath Ghosh and Tutul Hossain Badsha from the left flank to hammer a shot only to be denied by goalkeeper Rana three minutes later.
Bangladesh started the second half as brilliantly as they did in the first half, but Sufil's curling effort in the 47th minute missed the far post, with the goalkeeper already beaten.
Bangladesh finally got their deserved lead on the hour-mark when Biplu's low shot from a difficult angle crawled into the net after brushing the leg of the opposition goalkeeper who had blocked consecutive efforts from Jibon and Sufil in the build-up to the goal. The goal was a bit scrappy, but it was no more than the hosts deserved for their attacking football.
The coach then sent three pairs of fresh legs to stem the flow of Laos attacks and succeeded in coming out with a victory which came as a relief for the hosts.