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Bangladesh lose Nepal series on penalties

Bangladesh lost their two-match FIFA friendly series against Nepal in a tiebreaker after the second match ended in a goalless draw at the Birshreshtha Shaheed Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Kamalapur yesterday.

The women in red and green, who were held to a 1-1 draw in their first match on Thursday, lost the decisive penalty shootout 4-2 as the visitors celebrated the bragging rights to the keenly contested series.

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Sheuli Azim and Maria Manda failed to convert their spot-kicks for the hosts while Shamsunnahar and Monika Chakma converted theirs. For Nepal, only goalkeeper Anjali Thmbapa Subba saw her spot-kick saved by Bangladesh goalie Rupna Chakma while Sabitra Bhandari, Hira Kumari, Deepa Shahi and Anita KC converted theirs.

The record books will say that this was a drawn match between the two sides, with Nepal leading head-to-head by 5-1 and five other matches ending in stalemate.

While the first match offered quite a few chances at both ends, with the hosts taking a 65th minute lead through skipper Sabina Khatun before Sabitra scored a stoppage-time equaliser, there were hardly any clear-cut chances throughout the second match.

Most time the action concentrated in the middle of the pitch, with no side able to take a stranglehold of the proceedings. Despite a few injury issues, Bangladesh coach Mahbubur Rahman Litu opted to field the same starting eleven that played in the first match.

While the defense held firm despite the absence of Akhi Khatun, who has left for China a couple of months ago, the indecisiveness up front was felt yet again in the absence of Sirat Jahan Swapna, who has bid goodbye to football.

It looked as if the reference point was missing when the likes of Krishna Rani Sarkar and Sanjida Akter moved up the flanks, with lack of cohesion between Sabina and Tohura Khatun quite evident.

Litu, who was handed the responsibility in the absence of long-time coach Golam Rabbani Choton, lamented the absence of key players in the side.

“There are a lot of expectations on this team since they did well in the past. But this team does not have Akhi, Swapna, Shamsunnahar Jr. How will I threaten the opposition going forward? When you have key players missing in those positions, you will have to suffer,” the stand-in coach said after the match.

“We did not play for 10 months. There was an impact on our game. There were also injuries in our team. It is hard to play with such a patched-up team,” Litu added.

Captain Sabina, being the prolific striker and the most experienced player of the team, said she had a specific plan regarding the tiebreaker, but that didn’t work.

“We had our plans for the tiebreaker. We also had trained accordingly,” Sabina said. “There were better spot-kick takers in the team which is why I didn’t take a shot.”

Sabina also felt that the 10-month gap in playing a competitive match had a say in their performance.

With the series out of the way, Bangladesh will now look to turn their focus on training again for September’s Asian Games. However, without a regular coach and missing key players, they will have to work their socks off if they are to replicate the performances that made them South Asian champions for the first time.

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