Bangladesh produced the kind of performance one would expect from a set of professionals against the amateurs of Macau in their final AFC Challenge Cup Group-A qualifying match at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
And after the final whistle it was a satisfying result indeed. A 3-0 win for Bangladesh’s Brazilian coach Dido and a passage into the final round of the championship next year as the best runners-up ahead of Maldives, who finished second from Group-B but lost the battle of goal difference against Bangladesh.
Bangladesh, who had a one goal advantage over Maldives (who scored four and conceded five against Bangladesh’s 2-2 after their second game) before going into the final match, were left with an easy option of a draw against Macau to progress into the final round after Myanmar had won the first match of the day 1-0 against Cambodia.
The option for a draw certainly released the pressure on Bangladesh against a team that has conceded five goals in their first two games. It also brought the best of Bangladesh after a not-so-impressive 1-0 win against Cambodia in their opening match followed by a heart-breaking 1-2 defeat at the hands of eventual winners Myanmar.
Midfielder Mamun opened the Bangladesh account in the 38th minute before Zahid’s brace after the break saw the hosts sign off with flying colours in front of a five thousand home crowd.
It was a match where Bangladesh played proper football albeit against a weak opponent. With Mamun working tirelessly in the middle and an overlapping right-back Rashed, who won his first national cap in place of suspended Nasir, moving menacingly down the flank there was little to do for the Bangladesh defence as the ball was mostly confined to the other half of the ground.
Still, Bangladesh had to wait a bit longer for their first goal when Zahid came out of the bench and made an immediate impact with a dipping cross from the right that striker Enamul, who scored both the goals in Bangladesh last two games, headed from close only to partially parried off by Macau goalkeeper Leong Chon Kit. But a lurking Mamun made no mistake to put the loose ball into the net with an intelligent back heel.
Zahid’s two goals after the break was testimony of a quality striker. Understandably disappointed for sitting on the bench in the last two games, Zahid made a statement with a stunning 35-yarder in the 68th minute. His cannon-like right-footer was so unexpected that a pint-size Leong could hardly react in time.
Zahid, who also saw a grounder come off the post in the 62nd minute, struck his second goal in the 71st minute. This time he played a couple of one-twos with his striking partner Emily before firing in a low drive from the edge of the box. It could easily been a hattrick for him had he not missed the mark in the last ten minutes of the game.
Coach Shafiqul Islam Manik was satisfied with the win but conceded that a significant improvement was needed if they wanted to compete in the tournament proper.
“We are happy that we have qualified for the final round of the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup but with success comes added responsibility. All the teams in the final round are ranked higher than us and the standard of football will be higher. So we really need to work hard at our game and I just hope we meet our own expectations”
Manik, who turned up to face the press after Dido missed his commitment with a headache, also stated that while the win looked good on paper, they had not played their best football today.
“Out of the three matches we played our best football against Cambodia in our first match. The boys did exactly as planned and implemented our strategies successfully. The match against Myanmar and today’s match against Macau were not upto the mark.”