Palestine knock-out gritty Bangladesh in Gold Cup

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PNS Desk: Bangladesh put up yet another brave display against a much stronger and more physical Palestine side but ultimately lost the semifinal of Bangabandhu Gold Cup 2018 by 2-0 on Wednes. With the win amid the drizzling in a rain-soaked Bir Shrestha Ruhul Amin Stadium in Cox’s Bazar, Palestine reached the final to face Tajikistan on Friday in Dhaka.

A slow start cost the home side as they conceded an early goal from a set-piece before getting any sort of rhytm. But as Jamie Day said after the game, the home side’s failure of converting the chances they got against a side 93 ranked above them hurt them most.

Palestine switched to a defensive tactic after the break, keeping their eyes on counter-attacks and their solid defence made it more difficult for the misfiring host forwards to get their efforts on target.
Bangladesh pressed hard till the end to equalise but Sameh Maraaba, who came off the bench, added a goal with Mohamed Balah’s three minute’s goal in the injury time to seal the match.

Despite the defeat there was not much dismay from the coaches, players and the jam-packed crowd due to the fighting spirit showed on the pitch. Even Palestine head coach Noureddine Ould Ali admitted in the post match presser that it was hard luck for the hosts.

Only Emon Mahmud from the four changes made for Philippines game kept his place in the starting eleven but in his regular role in central midfield while Jamal Bhuiyan returned to the midfield in a deeper role. Waly Faisal and Bishwanath Ghosh also made their return to back-four while Mahbubur Rahman Sufil started up front alongside Nabib Newaz Ziban.

Noureddine, who fielded 18 players in two group matches, made eight changes from their last game against Nepal and all of them also started against Tajikistan in the first match. Captain and defender Abdul Latif Albahdari is the only player who started in all three matches.

The home side received an early threat in the first minute when Pablo Bravo’s shot was blocked by Rana. Two minutes later Biplo tried his luck from 25 yards but the shot was too wide.

The height of the more physical Palestine players made the Bangladesh defence vulnerable in set-pieces as Balah faced little resistance while taking the lead with an easy header in the eighth minute. Sprinting through the right flank, Musas Battat delivered a quick cross that met Balah at the far post. Abdul Latif hit the woodwork following a corner of Jonathan Zorilla two minutes later.

Bangladesh started to gather momentum after that. Following Sufil’s cutback three minutes later, Jony saw his effort from the right edge of the box saved by the keeper Rami Hamada.

Sufil had a great opportunity in the 21st minute after snatching the ball from Salah Tamer at the left side of the box but his weak effort was blocked by an alert Palestine defence. Ziban provided a fine through for Sufil but couldn’t reach the striking partner due to a rain-soaked pitch.

Ziban had another chance in added time of the opening half. After outrunning his marker to collect a through from Sufil, Ziban broke into the right side of the penalty area only to hit the side-net.

Bangladesh kept the Palestine defence consistently busy after the resumption. There were not many notable chances due to a tight Palestine defence and but Bangladesh continued to kick the ball inside the opponents terrain, mostly from corners and Bishwanath’s long throw-ins. One on-target shot in the 65th minute came through a Topu header following a Jamal free-kick that went straight to the keeper.

Palestine seemed to be content with the one-goal lead as they concentrated more on shielding their defence and created chances on counter-attacks. Khaled Salem missed a couple of chances in the 71st and 88th minute and Dabbagh in the 90th minute.

Sameh Maraaba came off the bench to end Bangladesh’s slightest hopes by doubling the lead in injury time. Oday Dabbagh headed down a long ball to Maraaba inside the box who calmly placed the ball past Rana to seal the victory.

Both the teams will return to Dhaka on Thursday.

Bangladesh starting Xl: Ashraful Islam Rana; Waly Faisal [Rahmat Mia – sub, 63’], Topu Barman, Tutul Hossain Badshah, Bishwanath Ghosh; Jamal Bhuiyan, Emon Mahmud [Rabiul Hasan – sub, 77’], Masuk Miah Joni, Biplo Ahmed [Tawhidul Alam abuz – sub, 80’]; Mahbubur Rahman Sufil, Nabib Newaz Ziban.

PNS/Tamanna Khan