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Moves into the next round of the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers 

Football:  In what was a clear demonstration of dominance, the Bhutanese national team defeated Bangladesh 3-1 in the second leg of the AFC Asian Cup playoff qualifiers at Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu yesterday.

An early goal in the fifth minute from defender Jigme T Dorji’s header gave the hosts the much-needed motivation to see through the game. A revamped squad under the new German coach dominated the match throughout.

A curling cross from defender Nima Wangdi found Chencho Gyeltshen inside the box who headed it in to give Bhutan their second goal in the 26th minute.

In the second half, Bhutan continued to push the visitors until the 65th minute but a free kick from skipper MD Mamunul Islam found the back of the Bhutanese net after a deflection.

However, it was Hari Gurung who was the undaunted hero of the match who made several crucial saves to keep Bhutan in the game. In the 70th minute substitute MD Jahid Hasan Ameli missed a one-on-one opportunity inside the box against Hari.

Chencho Gyeltshen scored his second in the 72nd minute to seal the deal for Bhutan.

The two early goals that Bangladesh conceded was the decisive point of the match according to the Bangladeshi head coach Tom Saintfiet. Disappointed, the Belgian coach said that it was a “catastrophic mistake” from his goalie and central defender to concede the two “silly” goals in the first 20 minutes of the game.

“We had trained well and we were supposed to play high and long balls because that is where we could have beaten the Bhutanese,” said Saintfiet, adding that his tactics were not executed by the team. “Everything was set but my players were dribbling the ball, there were short balls, and low corners, exactly what is asked of them not to do.”

The coach added that his team gave Bhutan an untimely present and he was responsible for it. “Today was not Christmas, but we gave away presents to Bhutan,” he said. “The team failed and so did I. I failed maybe because I didn’t select the right players or I put my confidence in wrong players. It was a disaster and I’m very disappointed and would like to apologise to the Bangladesh football federation and all football lovers.”

Saintfiet said that for Bangladesh who has a professional league, such failure was unacceptable. “Our players are paid higher than in the Belgium premier league. I’m sure that Bhutanese players don’t even earn a third of our players.”

The new head coach of Bhutan, Torsten Spittler said that the team was prepared for all possible contingencies against Bangladesh but it was a comfortable match.

“We knew Bangladesh would play high balls and we had trained our goalie to adapt to that situation,” said the German. “Our strategy was to keep pressing and keep the ball on the ground. We could have scored some more goals but it was a good match.”

He said that the team did well in sticking with the game plan and following what he had asked for during the training sessions. “We have a lot of young players. They still have a lot to learn.”

Spittler added that the win was important for him to work further with the team. “The team have improved a lot. Today’s game was not just kick and rush but it was a combination of tactical and technical play,” he said. “With time we can improve further. Today’s game was a good feedback for myself too. I’m very happy.”

Bhutan now moves into the next round of the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.

Younten Tshedup

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