Bangladesh clinched the coveted football gold medal of the SA Games after long 11 years with a facile 4-0 victory over Afghanistan in the final at the Bangabandhu National Stadium on Monday.
Atiqur Rahman Mishu, Enamul Huq, Abdul Baten Komol and Towhidul Alam Sabuj scored the goals for the champions who dominated whole 90 minutes of the final and presented the hosts with the 18th gold medal of the meet. Bangladesh footballers produced excellent teamwork and maintained the same rhythm throughout the game. Afghanistan had very little space to show their abilities and their in-form forward Belal Arezou, who scored nine goals in the tournament, failed to inspire his team.
Bangladesh went in front in the 18th minute through midfielder Mishu. Defender Nasir produced another of his dazzling footwork to dribble past two Afghan defenders and finding no way to halt Nasir an Afghan defender brought him down just outside the penalty box. Waly Faisal curled the resulting free-kick and Mishu headed the ball into the right hand post of Afghan keeper Bashir Ahmad.
Bangladesh continued to probe the opposition defence. Forward Enamul’s a fierce side-volley from the middle of the box in the 24th minute whistled past the side post.
The thirst for the title kept the Bangladesh players on their toes and they doubled the lead in the 33rd minute. Left-winger Shakil controlled an Enamul cross and gave a neat cross for Enamul to head it home.
Afghanistan took a defensive approach and their forwards tried to use the flanks with long balls but it turned futile. Emily was unfortunate in the 40th minute when his header from a Shakil cross went out off the crosspiece.
After the change of ends Bangladesh tasted the Afghan flair for a while and Aminul was the saviour as usual. Faisal Shahzada headed a neat Wahid Nadeem cross in the 58th minute but Aminul punched the ball to safety diving to his right.
Serbian coach Djordevic sent on fresh attacking duo of Mithun and Komol half an hour from time taking off Emily and Enamul and it worked. Komol fired the third goal in the 69th minute. Afghan defence line failed to clear a Mishu free-kick from the right flank and Komol controlled the ball and turned 90 degrees before blasting the ball into the roof of the net.
Two minutes before the long whistle substitute forward Towhidul Alam Sabuj put the final nail in the Afghan coffin after Fradon Khatebi, the substitute goalkeeper, let a Komol drive slip out his grip and nearby standing Sabuj headed it home sparking wild celebration in the stadium.
Bangladesh coach Zoran Djordevic and skipper Aminul Haque attributed the success to their teamwork after their SA Games triumph at the Bangabandhu National Stadium on Monday.
Aminul was ecstatic with the title. ‘We needed it badly, football needed the title, we did not win any silverware in the recent past and felt frustrated, the SA Games title will enable us to look forward and to continue the success story,’ said Aminul.
‘It was the result of the perfect teamwork, all the players were committed to their duties, you see we have won five consecutive matches, it is a rare feat in the history of Bangladesh football,’ said Aminul.
Djordevic said, ‘Since I took over the charges with my fellow assistant coaches I have always believed that Bangladesh have the potential to be a good footballing nation, I urge the government and all the other concerned quarters to come forward to assist football, I firmly believe that Bangladesh has the potential to be among the top-ranked teams of the world.’