Spot-kick shatters Bangladesh’s dreams
Anjan Bista's penalty, awarded by Uzbekistan referee Akhrol Riskullaev in a controversial fashion, in the dying minutes of the game broke the hearts of Bangladesh as Nepal came from behind to draw 1-1 in their final group fixture of the SAFF Championship at the National Football Stadium in Male yesterday.
The outcome also saw Nepal reach the final of the regional championship for the first time in its 28-year history.
Bangladesh players gathered around the Uzbek referee for about five minutes after his controversial decision. A spectator, disappointed with the decision that denied Bangladesh an entry into the competition's final for the first time in 16 years, stormed into the ground and the referee and his assistants needed police to escort them out of the ground.
Bangladesh were reduced to 10 men when goalkeeper Anisur Rahman Zico was given marching orders in the 78th minute after he had handled the ball outside the box. Nepal, who were a goal down at that point, put pressure on Bangladesh for an equaliser.
A Nepalese forward, who tried to connect Maish Dangi's cross but went down following the slightest of touches from Sadd Uddin inside the box, prompted the referee to point to the spot.
Coach Oscar Bruzon brought four chances to the squad that lost 0-2 to the Maldives. Dfender Bishwanath Ghosh and winger Rakib Hossain returned to the playing eleven after missing the previous match due to the suspensions.
Meanwhile, forward Suman Reza and defender Tutul Hossain Badsha came in place of Matin Miah and Rahmat Mia as the Spanish coach chose to play with two strikers.
The change of the players and the formation clicked for the charges of Bruzon as they took a lead inside the first ten minutes of the game.
With deafening roars from more than 2500 thousand fans from the galleries, the men in red and green looked more energetic following a five-day gap as Jamal Bhuiyan, Biplu Ahmed, Saad Uddin and Rakib tried to establish the stranglehold in the central area.
Suman Reza nodded in a header off a Jamal Bhuiyan freekick in the 10th minute, sending the fans into a frenzy and also raising hopes of playing the regional football extravaganza final after 16 years.
Nepal started to press hard through both flanks for the equaliser but Rohit Chand drove wide inside the box in the 15th minute, much to the relief of goalkeeper Anisur Rahman.
From a counter, Suman Reza came close to doubling the lead but he struck straight to goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu while a square-pass to unmarked Ibrahim could have given the forward a better option to shoot on the target in the 22nd minute.
Afterwards, Nepal mounted more pressure from the left flank with Tariq struggling in his new position but no damages were done in the first half.
After resumption, Nepal kept their dominance intact in the midfield to put tremendous pressure on the Bangladesh backline while Bangladesh concentrated on counter to widen the margin.