| Bangladesh’s Arif Khan Joy (right) and India’s Jo Paul Ancheri vie for the ball during the SAFF Cup semi-final in Dhaka Saturday. Bangladesh won 2-1. (AFP)
Dhaka, Jan. 18 (AP): A golden goal by Bangladesh midfielder Matiur Rahman Munna sent defending champions and favourites India crashing out of the SAFF Cup at the Bangabandhu National Stadium Saturday.
In a thrilling semi-final clash, the hosts defeated India 2-1. They will play Maldives in the final on Monday.
Bangladesh had taken the lead in the 77th minute through Rokonuzzaman Kanchan and Alvito D’Cunha restored parity for India four minutes later, before Munna emerged hero.
It was India’s most embarrassing defeat in the Stephen Constantine era after the setback against Pakistan in the same meet a few days ago.
With the score locked 1-1, Munna snatched a ball in midfield and started a solo run even as the Indian defenders started falling back. But he intelligently created a little space for himself with a sudden sway towards the left and unleashed a thunderous left-footer from about 25-yard out. It left Indian custodian Naseem Akhter rooted to the ground.
The crowd was on its feet — after all, it was Bangladesh’s third win in 19 meetings with India since the rivalry began in 1978.
Until that scintillating goal, the talented Munna had gone unnoticed. But with a single act he proved class could always make a decisive impact.
Earlier, Maldives recorded a 1-0 victory over Pakistan in the first semi-final. Fazeel scored the goal for the much-improved tiny islanders in the 12th minute.
Smarting under their recent 0-3 setback against India in the Busan Asian Games, the wards of George Kottan were determined to turn the tide on home soil. The inspired Bangladesh team not only pushed the Indians on the backfoot right from the word go, but also maintained the same blistering pace during the entire game.
After a barren first half, Bangladesh took a deserving lead from a set-piece. Arman Miah, the little midfield dynamo, delivered a typically deadly corner from the right and an airborne Kanchan did the needful with a diving header which whistled in towards the far post.
But India silenced the partisan crowd four minutes later when substitute midfielder D’Cunha spooned the ball over an out-of-position Aminul Haq. The otherwise solid Bangladesh goalkeeper had only himself to blame for not staying on the line.
It was the first goal that Bangladesh conceded in the tournament. And it was D’Cunha’s third goal of the tournament after the brace against Afghanistan.
India came close to scoring a late winner after that stunning equaliser, but I.M. Vijayan’s shot from inside the box missed the mark by a yard, much to the relief of the home side.
Jo Paul Ancheri had also tested Aminul with two quick shots with his stronger left-footers after the break.
Bangladesh could have gone ahead in the fifth minute when Kanchan came up with a spectacular header off an Arman corner, but it was cleared by Climax Lawrence from the goalline.
Apart from that, it was a story of near misses by the home side, who otherwise played the best match of the tournament. It was refreshing to see Bangladesh following an attacking ploy, leaving the much-vaunted Indians gasping for air and space.
BANGLADESH: Aminul Haq; Hasan-Al Mamun, Sujon, Nazrul, Rajani Barman, Parvez Babu, Motiur Rahman Munna, Arman, Arif Khan Joy, Kanchan, Alfaz (Ujjal).
INDIA: Naseem Akhtar; Rennedy Singh, Jo Paul Ancheri, Debjit Ghosh, M. Suresh, S. Venkatesh, Roberto Fernandez, Climax Lawrence, Samir Naik (Abhay Kumar), I.M. Vijayan, Ashim Biswas (Alvito D’Cunha).
Referee: Kunsuta Chaiwat (Thailand).