Bangladesh punches above weight but Kuwait comes out with a 1-0 win
Bangladesh punched above their weight in the first semi-final of the SAFF Championship 2023, but ultimately, their effort went in vain as Kuwait handed them a 1-0 defeat. After the teams could not be separated in normal time, Abdullah Al-Buloushi handed the Bengal Tigers the killer blow in extra time.
Kuwait head coach Rui Bento made wholesale changes to his team, after resting the majority of his key players for the last Group A game against India. Al-Buloushi, Khalid El Ebrahim, Hussain Al Muhaisen, Fawaz Al Otabi, Hamad Al Harbi, Ali Khalaf, Salman Al Awadi and Mubarak Al Faneni were all recalled into the starting lineup.
On the other hand, Bangladesh head coach Javier Cabrera made only one change to the team that defeated Bhutan 3-1 as Abahani Limited Dhaka’s Rahmat Mia made way for Tariq Kazi.
Unlike what many expected, it was Cabrera’s team who had the better start to the game. In only the second minute of the match, Rakib Hossain launched a dangerous cross into the box and midfielder Shekh Morsalin had the entire goal to aim at, but he ended up hitting the shot straight at the Kuwaiti goalkeeper, Abdulrahman Kameel.
Three minutes later, Bangladesh could not clear the ball from a corner and it almost ended up in the back of the net but Isa Faysal made a heroic goalline clearance to maintain equilibrium in the match.
In the next few minutes, Cabrera’s team created the more clear-cut chances but Kuwait also looked good on the counters. The Blues almost took the lead in the 24th minute when in an attempt to clear an Al Rashidi corner, Mohamad Ridoy ended up giving the ball straight to Muhaisen. However, the Al-Arabi full-back’s attempt was saved by Anisur Rahman Zico.
For Bangladesh, Basundhara Kings’ winger Rakib was creating the most chances, and he came up with yet another fantastic opening in the 27th minute. His through ball found Sohel Rana unmarked, but the midfielder’s shot was saved by Kameel.
Against the run of play, Kuwait had a good chance in the 35th minute when Al Rashidi’s free-kick found El Ebrahim unmarked, but the Al-Qadsia defender could not guide his header on target. Al Rashidi did for Kuwait what Rakib was doing for Bangladesh, as in the 39th minute, he went for the goal himself. However, Zico was up to the task as the first half ended 0-0.
Unlike the first half, Kuwait started the second period on the front foot and could easily have taken the lead in the 50th minute. Ali Matar launched a set piece into a dangerous area, but it somehow evaded all of his teammates.
At the opposite end of the pitch, Rakib went on waging a sole battle against Bento’s defenders. His shot in the 54th minute missed the target by a whisker, while the same occurrence was repeated six minutes later.
In between a frantic game of football, tempers flared as players from both teams engaged in a tussle. Ultimately, the casualty was Bangladesh’s physiotherapist David Magan, who ended up getting tangled in the exchange of words.
Just when it seemed the game will go into extra time, Bangladesh almost found the opener in the 87th minute. Once again, it was Rakib who was pulling the strings as his shot caught the Kuwaiti backline by surprise, but he missed the target by only a few inches.
The last chance of the normal time came to the Bengal Tigers, with their 24-year-old winger being heavily involved again. A pass from Foysal Ahmed Fahim found Rakib in a good position, but the latter’s shot was not on target.
Kuwait almost broke the deadlock at the start of extra time, as substitute Mohammad Abdullah Daham took a shot. However, his attempt could only find the side-netting.
However, that miss did not mean much as the goal eventually came in additional time of the first half of extra time. Al-Baloushi made an overlapping run down the right flank and got past his marker before launching a precise shot past a helpless Zico.Bangladesh did have chances to bounce back, with Rahmat Mia taking a shot in the 113th minute which was saved by Kaleem, while Rakib had yet another attempt blocked by the goalkeeper. In the last minute, Biswanath Ghosh tried his luck from a long way out, but his shot was not on target. Kuwait will now play in the final on Tuesday.