Bangladesh made frustrating start in the six-team Bangabandhu International Gold Cup Football Tournament’2020 conceding 0-2 goals defeat against top seed and defending champions Palestine in the opening match at the Bangabandhu National Stadium here on Wednesday.
Forwards Khaled Salem and Layth Kharoub netted one goal each for the Palestine, in the Bangladesh’s first international sports events on the eve of the ‘Mujib Borsho’.
Law Minister M Anisul Huq inaugurated the meet prior to the day’s opening match. President of Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) Kazi Md Salahuddin, Chief Coordinator of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Birth Centenary Celebration National Implementation Committee Dr Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury and other BFF officials were present at the inaugural program.
Hosts started to play attacking football from the very beginning and created some good chances. But their forwards wasted all the opportunities near strong defense wall of the Palestine, especially the credit goes to their goalkeeper Tawfiq Abuhammad, who successfully saved the post brilliantly.
Tawfiq denied a direct close-range free-kick from Bangladesh’s experienced midfielder Mamunul Islam Mamun in the 9th minute while another midfielder Saad Uddin failed to find the net as his long-range shot missed the target in the 21st minute.
Palestine opened the account in the 29th minute by a counter-attack. Forward Khaled Salem easily sent the ball home by placing shot from left wing, utilizing a long pass from midfielder Oday Kharoub (1-0).
In the 32nd minute, defender Topu Barman, who returned in the squad after a long gap, missed a golden opportunity to level the margin from a goal mouth melee. A close-range header from the defender went outside edging the left post, off a Rayhan Hasan long throw-in.
In the first half, Palestine got another chance to widen their margin, but forward Layth Kharoub shot the target off in the 39th minute.
Bangladesh got another blow in the 57th minute while the defending champions doubled their margin netting second goal. This time, forward Layth made no mistake to bury the ball with a right-footer from danger zone while Bangladeshi defender Yeasin Khan failed to clear a direct free-kick from midfielder Mohamed Darwish (2-0).
In the 78th minute, a close-attempt of Saad Uddin was prevented by the Nepalese referee Sunfish Kumar Pandey due to off-side. The hosts haven’t got any other close chance in the second half.
The match saw Palestine defender Mohammed Khalil a yellow card.
With the day’s feat, Palestine have brightened their spot for the semifinal. They will play their second and last group match against Sri Lanka on Friday at 5 pm. On the other hand, hosts have to beat Sri Lanka in their last group match on January 19 to confirm their semifinal berth.
On Thursday, Burundi will play against Mauritius in the first match of Group B.
Two top teams from each of the group will play in the semifinals. The Group A champions will play Group B runners-up in the first semifinal on January 22 while Group B champions will face Group A runners-up in the other semis on January 23, both at 5:pm at the same venue.
The title deciding final match will be held on January 25, also at 5 pm at the same venue.
In his post match reaction, Bangladesh Head Coach Jamie Day said, “Palestine are strong side. They have good players. We gave them chances and they scored.”
Bangladesh never clinched title of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup. They finished runners-up in 2015 conceding 3-2 goals defeat against Malaysia in the final, which is their highest achievement.
On the other hand, Palestine emerged unbeaten champions in the last edition of the meet in 2018 beating Tajikistan by 4-3 goals in the tie-breaker.
Ahead of the tournament, BFF President Kazi Mohammad Salahuddin at a function on Sunday announced a bonus of US $100,000 if the Bangladesh team clinch the Bangabandhu Gold Cup title. If they end up as runners-up, Bangladesh team will get US $50,000.
Bangladesh: Ashraful Islam Rana (GK), Topu Barman, Rahmat Mia, Rayhan Hasan, Yeasin Khan, Jamal Bhuiyan (C), Mamunul Islam Mamun (Mahbubur Rahman Sufil), Motin Miah (Rabiul Hasan), Saad Uddin (Arifur Rahaman), Sohel Rana and Mohammad Ibrahim
Palestine: Tawfiq Abu Hammad (GK), Mousa Salim, Mohammed Khalil, Oday Kharoub, Mohmoud Abu Warda, Mohamed Darwish (Dawoud Iraqi), Khaled Salem (Reebal Dahamshi), Sameh Maraaba (C), Layth Kharoub (Rami Almasalma), Radwan Abukarash and Yazan Iwaiwi.
Referee: Sunfish Kumar Pandey (Nepal).