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Bangladesh produced some sparkling football to qualify for the semi finals, topping the Group. As a result, Pakistan crashed out of the tournament.



Hosts Bangladesh produced an attacking display of football as they beat Sri Lanka 2-1 at the Bangabandhu National Stadium to go through to the semi finals of the SAFF Cup as Group B winners. Pakistan who had earlier themselves sizzled in a 7-0 thumping of Bhutan, crashed out of the tournament. Pakistan had kept their hopes of going through to the semi finals alive by winning by a comfortable margin. Had Bangladesh lost the match they would have been on same points as Pakistan but Pakistan would have gone through on goal difference. But that was not to be as the hosts played some sizzling football to win the match.

Bangladesh stated the match firing on all cylinders. Sri Lanka looked totally out of their depth, and Bangladesh looked certain to score within minutes. As early as the 6th minute, Mehedi Hassan took the ball at left flank, cut inside and shot a long range shot which whizzed past the post. But Hassan would almost immediately do better as his pass allowed Enamul Haque to take a shot at goal and score to draw first blood.

Sri Lanka responded by slowing the game down and play the long ball game. But Bangladesh were determined to not take the foot off the gas. Mehedi Hassan particularly was causing all kinds of troubles for the Sri Lanka defense. Sri Lanka however looked calm and stuck to their plan of keeping the ball and looking for spaces. Zahid Parvez played some lovely through ball for his forwards which they were unable to convert. The game reached a state of equilibrium as both sides looked to make a killer pass. Just when it seemed the first half was going to end on an even footing, Bangladesh concede a free kick just at the edge of the box. E.B Channa stepped and duly sent in a love free kick past the Bangladeshi keeper and into the net. It ended 1-1 at half time.

Second half started with Bangladesh again having a go at the Lankan defense. Mehedi Hassan found himself in a decent position to convert a cross from the right but was unable to control the ball. Sri Lanka were playing a long ball game whereas Bangladesh looked to keep the ball on the ground and string together a few passes. Bangladesh were dominating proceedings now and on 66th minute it finally paid off. Nasirul Islam sent in a beautiful cross from the right which was met by Enamul Haque as he thumped in a header to give the hosts a 2-1 lead.

Sri Lanka seemed in no hurry to equalize and so the game again slowed down allowing Bangladesh to keep possession. Enamul Haque was substituted on 80 min to a big applause by the Bengali support. Sri Lanka resorted to some long range shooting but to no avail as Bangladesh played out the last ten minutes pretty comfortably to seal a spot in the Semi finals.

Venkatesha Sharma

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