Thursday, June 20, 2024

Too good, but too late

Bangladesh Win World Cup Pre-Qualifier 2nd-Leg 2-0
Too good, but too late
So the World Cup dream of Bangladesh is over. But not before the boys of Nikola Ilievski put up a show that was spectacularly daring. The only thing missing was perhaps the belief that they could overturn Lebanon’s impressive 4-0 home leg advantage.
In the end Bangladesh won their home match at the Bangabandhu National Stadium 2-0. And in front of a 10,000 partisan crowd they created more chances, opening up a situation for a spectacular turnaround from a hopeless start to their return-leg pre-qualifying match for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Lebanon sneaked into the Asian pre-qualifying proper with a 4-2 aggregate. But it was the spirited boys of Bangladesh who received a standing ovation for not only making a match of it but also playing the attractive brand of football.
Mithun Chowdhury scored the opening goal seven minutes into the second-half while his striking partner Zahid Hasan Emily headed home the second in the 87th minute.
Before the match a disgruntled Bangladesh coach said that he expected little from his charges, who were awfully out of sorts when they played in Beirut on June 23.
It however could not be known whether it was a ploy from the Macedonian to inspire his boys, it worked like magic in 90 minutes where his boys hardly put a pass wrong. The technology that provides stats about ball possession, pass completed and shots on target was not available. But the one, who watched the match was convinced that Bangladesh enjoyed more possession, completed more passes than their opponents and shot the ball at target four times more than they scored.
The shortest Lebanese player was taller than Bangladesh’s tallest player — don’t consider towering goalkeeper Mamun Khan — on the filed. But Bangladesh’s players won more balls in the air than their opponents.
Playing with short pass, Bangladesh looked threatening from the start of the match. They came tantalisingly close to scoring in the eighth minute when Emily supplied a low cross from the right, but a sliding Mithun could only find outside the side netting.
Then in the 45th minute Bangladesh did almost a Barcelona — a dream move containing five decisive passes starting from a darting run by Mishu down the left flank to a little one-twos between Mamun-Emily followed by a defence-slicing through to Raju, who fired the ball over the bar. It could have been a dream finish had Raju not tried to drive the ball hard.
Bangladesh took a deserved lead in the 52nd minute when Mithun found enough space to fire the ball but only to be partially parried by Lebanese goalkeeper Elias Freige. But a fleet-footed Mithun made no mistake to pounce the rebound into an empty net.
Bangladesh might have looked running out of gas with the progress of the game, but still they looked menacing whenever they got the ball. The second goal came quite late. Still it was a reward of collective effort. Nasir released a nice through for Komol, who initially had it wrong-footed but was quick to take a turn before releasing a perfect cross deep into the box where a lurking Emily did the simple task of heading the ball from point blank range.
Lebanon also had their share of chances in the match. But Bangladesh custodian Mamun showed why he was considered ahead of a proven Biplob under the bar, making three superb saves denying Mahmoud El Ali on all the occasions.
The performance of Bangladesh opened up a debate whether Bangladesh played badly at Beirut or Lebanon, saddled on a cosy 4-0 advantage, took the second-leg match lightly. But whatever the argument is, the half-packed big bowl crowd is convinced that the national team played the best football after a long, long time.
TEAMS
BANGLADESH: Mamun Khan, Atiqur Rahman Meshu, Rezaul Karim Reza (Nasirul Islam), Ariful Islam, Mohammad Sujan, Zahid Hossain (Shakil Ahmed), Mamunul Islam, Monaem Khan Raju, Pranotosh Kumar (Abdul Baten Komol), Zahid Hasan Emily and Mithun Chowdhury.
LEBANON: Elias Freije, Ali Al Saadi, Ramez Dayoub, Walid Ismail, Hamze Abboud, Hamzeh Salami, Zakaria Yeha Charara (Mohamad Mahmood), Khodr Salameh, Hassan Maatouk (Imad Miri), Akram Moghrabi (Zouhair Abdallah), Mahmoud EL Ali.
Yellow cards: Ariful, Raju (Bangladesh)

-With The Daily Star input

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