Kazunori Ohara's side gave a decent account of themselves but the scoreline doesn't reflect the closely contested game...
Afghanistan won their opening game at the SAFF Championship against Bhutan 3-0 at the Halchowk Stadium, Kathmandu. Goals from Haroon Amiri, Mustafa Azadzoy and Hashmatullah Barakzai sealed the victory for them with Passang Tsering missing from the spot for Bhutan, who never allowed Yousef Kargar's side an easy ride.
It was Bhutan who had the first attempt though it was well wide of the goal from Sonam Tenzin in the 10th minute. Three minutes later, the Afghans could have gone ahead but for goalkeeper Leki Dukpa did well to sweep the ball off striker Hashmatullah Barakzai’s feet.
Bhutan did well to frustrate their opponents as they played well within their limitations and defended stoutly. Around the half hour mark, Hashmatullah missed a golden chance as his shot blazed over after being found by Amiruddin Anwar from the left wing.
Just after the half hour mark, goalkeeper Leki somehow prevented Amiruddin from getting a shot in on goal. The Bhutan custodian saved and spilled the ball on two occasions but each time parried the ball away from the winger, before the defenders cleared it.
Bhutan’s resistance was finally broken in the 37th minute when Azadzoy’s corner was headed by Hashmatullah and Haroon Amiri nicked in ahead of the defender to head his side ahead.
Afghanistan could have been 2-0 up before the half-time but Hashmatullah’s celebrations were cut short by the offside flag.
Bhutan started the second half on purpose and kept the ball well with skipper Passang Tsering influencing the proceedings.
Their good work was almost rewarded but for the Afghanistan defender to clear the ball before it could cross the line. This was after substitute Yeshey Dorji, just three minutes after coming on, chipped the ball over goalkeeper Mansur Faqiryar.
A cross into the box evaded four Afghan shirts before substitute Mohammad Marouf dived for which he got himself yellow carded.
Passang was brought down by Ali Ahmad but the resultant spot-kick saw goalkeeper Mansur Faqiryar pull off a top save. Thereafter they launched a quick counterattack from which Mustafa Azadzoy hit a great first time shot into the bottom corner to make it 2-0.
In the 81st minute, Azadzoy crossed at the far post and Sanjdar Ahmadi is in touching distance of the goal-line, but instead hit the cross bar with his effort.
Towards the closing stages, Afghanistan got their third goal as Hashmatullah dribbled past two players and rifled his shot home which saw their coach Yousef Kargar jump with joy on the sidelines.
Afghanistan need to be more prolific upfront while Bhutan will take several positives despite the defeat as they matched their opponents toe-to-toe for most of the game.
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