Booters start with encouraging win
Bangladesh began the Three Nations Cup on a winning note, handing a 1-0 defeat to Kyrgyzstan's U-23 team in the opening match at the Dashrath Stadium in Kathmandu yesterday.
The men in red and green now need to only secure a draw against hosts Nepal on March 27 to claim a spot in the final of the tournament. Nepal will play Kyrgyzstan U-23 tomorrow in a match that could decide the finalists altogether.
Head coach Jamie Day was determined ahead of the tournament to blood young players and see if any were capable of making the cut for June's World Cup Qualifiers and he handed debuts to three players.
Center-back Habibur Rahman Shohag, left-back Rimon Hossain and forward Mehedi Hasan Royal all debuted in the opening match of the tournament and Jamie was perhaps happy with the overall performance from the team, although expectations were somewhat tempered by the national team's poor show against Qatar during a World Cup qualifier in December.
Day's charges clearly lacked in terms of stamina and fitness against Qatar, but looked better in both regards throughout yesterday's match thanks to the resumption of domestic competitions. Bangladesh may have played their senior side against Kyrgyzstan's Olympic outfit, but most of the Bangladeshi players were below 23, barring two or three players in the first half.
However, Day sent three pairs of fresh legs at the start of the second half, with Jamal Bhuiyan, Riyadul Hasan and Rakib Hossain coming on to replace Masuk Mia Jonny, Biplo Ahmed and Shohag while midfielder Manik Hossain Molla replaced debutant Mehedi Hasan Royal.
The boys in red and green got off to a fine start with better possession and built up through the flanks while debutant Shohag proved instrumental from nearly all the set-pieces and almost provided the lead from a free-kick only to see the shot fisted away by Kyrgyz goalkeeper Toktaev Erzhan in the 13th minute.
With Bangladeshi players struggling slightly to cope with the fast nature of the pitch, Kyrgyzstan came close to breaking the deadlock in the 27th minute but forward Borudaev Gulzhigit, availing a long ball, drove miles off the target from inside the box with goalkeeper Anisur Rahman Zico to beat.
Three minutes later, Bangladesh burst into celebrations as Kyrgyz defender Kumabrajuulu Baiaman bundled into his own net. Biplo Ahmed initiated the move by snatching the ball from the feet of the opposition and freeing Saad Uddin down the right. The Abahani player then ran into the box and whipped back a fierce low-ball into the box for Biplo that Baiaman drove into his net while attempting to clear.
A couple of minutes later, Kyrgyzstan went close to equalising but Zico kept Bangladesh in the match by thwarting a one-on-one effort against Tapaev Temirbolot.
After resumption, Bangladesh looked better on the back of three changes.
Matin Mia, who staged a comeback after sustaining a hamstring injury during the 2020 Bangabandhu Gold Cup, penetrated the opposing backline time and again. He brilliantly entered the box from the right before cutting back for stand-in-captain Sohel Rana, but the midfielder was well-blocked by a defender in the 55th minute.
10 minutes later, Matain ran down the left flank and delivered a nice ball to substitute Manik Hossain Mollah, who failed to connect with the ball from the edge of the box. Kyrgyzstan exerted more pressure in the latter stages in search of an equaliser, but could not find the target against some good defending.