Bangladesh's SAFF final dream shattered

Sports Desk
Players of Bangladesh Football Team

Players of Bangladesh Football Team

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The 10-man Bangladesh failed to hold on to a slender lead as an 88th minute penalty by Anjan Bista saw Nepal bounce back and eke out a 1-1 draw in their final SAFF Championship group stage game in Male on Wednesday.

With the draw, the men in red and green lost their first chance to make it into the final of the regional championship in 16 years.

Courtesy of the ninth-minute strike from forward Suman Reza, Bangladesh were leading for most part of the game till the referee pointed to the spot after a Nepal striker was brought down inside the box just minutes before the end of the regulation time. Replay, however, showed that there was very minimal touch on the Nepal player. 

Before that, Bangladesh were down to ten men when goalkeeper Anisur Rahman Zico was given marching orders in the 79th minute after the Bashundhara Kings stopper handled the ball outside the box after charging down a Nepal player who was through on goal. 

Striker Reza, who started ahead of Motin Mia for this game, took only nine minutes to make his mark as he headed in the opener from a Jamal Bhuiyan freekick following a slight deflection off the head of a Nepal defender.

Both sides had a few decent chances throughout the second half with Nepal looking more ominous in search of a goal in the dying minutes of the first half.

Nepal defender Rohit Chand squandered arguably the best opportunity that the Himalayan nation produced in the first half when he failed to connect the ball and tap it past Bangladesh stopper Zico following a delivery from the right flank. 

Reza could have doubled Bangladesh's lead in the 54th minute but the forward failed to beat the goalkeeper after he shrugged off his marker on the right side at the edge of the box.

Goalkeeper Zico kept Bangladesh alive in the game with some breathtaking saves -- the best of which came in the second half when his quick reflexes helped to keep out a Nepal header from close range following a deflected shot from outside the box.