Bangladesh kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the final round of the AFC Challenge Cup with a comprehensive 4-0 win over lowly Northern Mariana Islands in their third and final Group D match at the Dasarath Stadium in Kathmandu, Nepal yesterday.
Bangladesh secured their runner-up slot after Nepal and Palestine played out a goalless draw meaning Bangladesh finish sole second just behind Palestine. They will now have to wait for results from the other groups before seeing if they can make it as one of the two best runners-up from the four groups.
Young striker Toklish Ahmed struck twice while hitman Shakhawat Hossain Rony and defender Linkon netted one goal each in the one-way traffic.
Bangladesh had a good opportunity to rewrite their biggest win (8-0 against Maldives in 1985) against an amateur team, devoid of any real quality and who had come into this game on the back of shocking 6-0 and 9-0 defeats at the hands of Nepal and Palestine respectively. But the newbies fought hard meaning Bangladesh had to be content with a 4-0 win.
The men in the red and green came into the game knowing that a big result was necessary and they grabbed the lead inside the first minute as Toklish headed them into the lead with a fine effort.
But the going got tougher and they struggled to break the backline of the Mariana Islands marshalled by ten players.
The ball was mostly concentrated deep inside the Mariana Islands half but Bangladesh could hardly make space to increase their goal tally, thanks to a series of saves from Mariana Islands’ goalkeeper Noetzel.
Bangladesh had to wait for another 37 minutes to double their lead as Noetzel denied hitman Rony from a spot kick in the 12nd minute and then thwarted two good efforts from the same striker, who struck a brace against Nepal in the previous match.
However, Rony amended for his penalty failure to double the lead with an accurate header off an Abul Baten Komol chip from the byline in the 38th minute and went to the break with a 2-0 lead.
It was a similar story in the second half as Bangladesh struggled to make
any headway despite hogging the ball and Mariana Islands came close to scoring their first international effort on the counter attack. Unfortunately captain William Otto, beat the Bangladesh goalkeeper, but still found the post.
With the game winding down, Rony, set up by Shohel Rana rattled the post in the 78th minute before Toklish struck his second from a goal-mouth-mele ein the 83rd minute.
Linkon then wrapped up the victory in the stoppage time of the second half.