Bangladesh thrash Maldives 3-1 to keep semi hopes alive

Bangladesh players celebrate after Rakib Hossain's goal in the Group B match against the Maldives at the SAFF Championship in Bengaluru, India on 25 June 2023BFF

Rakib Hossain’s header, Tariq Kazi’s strike from a goalmouth melee and Sheikh Morsalin’s cool-headed finish earned Bangladesh a vital 3-1 win over the Maldives in the Group B match of the SAFF Championship, a victory that keeps Bangladesh’s semifinal hopes alive.

At the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Sunday, Hamza Mohamed gave Maldives an early lead before Bangladesh came from behind to register a memorable win.

Bangladesh started the match poorly, looking disorganised compared to their resilient performance against Lebanon in their tournament opener, which they lost 0-2.

Bangladesh paid the price for it in the 17th minute when Hamza unleashed a fierce right-footed strike from outside the d-box, which evaded the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Anisur Rahman Zico and went into the goal.

Conceding the goal in hindsight helped Bangladesh as the players got rid off their early jitters and started playing in a more organised way.

Bangladesh kept threatening the Maldives goal, coming close to equalising a couple of times before finally Rakib breached the Maldives defences.

A cross from the left-wing was headed expertly towards Rakib, who was waiting by the left side. The forward headed the ball past the Maldivian goalkeeper Shareef to level the scores.

In the second half, Bangladesh were even more dominant, and a goal for Javier Cabrera’s charges seemed like a matter of time.

That moment finally arrived in the 67th minute from a goalmouth melee where Kazi scored the goal after multiple attempts.

Maldives players tried to equalise in the remaining minutes but they didn’t have the venom in the attacking third to breach Bangladesh’s defences.

In the final minute of regulation time, Bangladesh's substitute Morsalin dribbled past a defender before placing the ball inside the post to seal the win.

With the win, Bangladesh ascended to the second position in Group B behind Lebanon and above Maldives.

Lebanon will face bottom-placed Bhutan later in the day, where if Lebanon win they will book a place in the semis.

Bangladesh will take on Bhutan on 28 June where a victory will take them to the semifinal.