Bangladesh left all their off-field turmoil at the touchline as they breezed to a 4-1 victory over an insipid Bhutan in their opening match of the Bangabandhu SAFF Championships at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Striker Enamul Haque grabbed a brace and his partner Zahid Hasan Emily and defender Pranotosh bagged the other goals as Bangladesh took the game to their opponents from the kick-off and forced repeated mistakes from the team ranked a lowly 196th in the world. The victory will go a long way to dispelling the doubters as Bangladesh put on a fine display to delight the 20,000-strong crowd at the Big Bowl under the floodlights.
There was no danger of a repeat of the 1-1 draw at the SAFF Championships in Colombo last year as Shahidur Rahman Shantoo’s charges adopted a high pressing game that forced their opponents into a bevy of mistakes.
Bangladesh maintained a high tempo throughout the game, a fact that surprised numerous fans and it must owe a lot to strong physical conditioning in the last few months and the continuity of football through the Bangladesh League.
The home side started with a vigour forcing three corners in the opening minutes and it was no surprise when they took the lead in the 11th minute as defender Pranotosh tapped the ball in from a goalmouth melee, after Nasir’s right-wing cross had created havoc.
Soon it was 2-0 as Enamul was given too much time and room inside the box and he blasted the ball into the back of the net. The burly striker could have scored another just minutes later had his header not rebounded off the post and away to safety.
With the hosts threatening to run riot, Bhutan found an unlikely way back into the match after the referee adjudged Rajani Barman to have impeded Nawang Dendup inside the box.
The forward dusted himself off and dispatched the resulting penalty to send the sides in 2-1 at the break.
After the breather, Bangladesh continued their onslaught and Enamul got his second goal after flicking on a Mehdi Hasan Ujjal free-kick from the left.
And Emily, who had looked dangerous all evening, applied the coup de grace in the 72nd minute to get the goal he richly deserved.
The fleet-footed forward danced past Bhutan goalkeeper Leki and fired home from a tight angle to give Bangladesh a rousing start in their bid to win the title.