World cup: Bhutan national football team lost their first international game at the Changlimithang stadium, when the team was humbled 6-0 by the People’s Republic of China in the first home game of the second round of the World Cup qualifiers yesterday.

What was dubbed as the clash of the two dragons, the bigger dragon out-roared the Dragon Boys, as many predicted.  The Bhutanese team had a promising start in the first half, as they defended a wave of Chinese attacks.  However, in the final seconds of the added two minutes, the deadlock was broken, when striker Yang Xu slid in the first goal miss footing the Bhutanese goalie, Hari Gurung.

Team China had the upper hand throughout the game, but they couldn’t capitalise on the dozens of opportunities created.  Dragon Boys defended with all their might to prevent the Chinese from scoring.  Goalie Hari Gurung once again came to the rescue of the team and the supporters, as he pulled a string of saves and prevented the Chinese from outscoring Hong Kong.

However, the floodgates opened in the second half, as the Dragon Boys went forward looking for an equaliser.  China scored five in the second half.

The head coach of the Chinese team, Alain Perrin, during the post match press conference, said that they got more open spaces in the second half, which resulted in their victory. “We played the same game as it in the first half, but the second half was much easier for us, since Bhutanese left more open spaces for us to score,” he said.

Striker Yang Xu got a hat-trick after scoring the first goal and substitute Yu Dabao scored a brace.

Chinese goalie, Yan Junling, was perhaps the least disturbed player on the pitch.  He was seen warming up inside the field, as the evening air got chillier.  The Dragon Boys got only three chances throughout the game to test the goalie.

Striker Chencho Gyeltshen was outrun and overpowered by the Chinese defenders.  Except for only two on target shots, the striker couldn’t work his magic this time at the Changlimithang Stadium.

The crowd shouted for a goal from the Dragon Boys but, to their dismay, the team didn’t even threaten to score throughout the 90 minutes.

Bhutan’s coach Norio Tsukitate said that, although the players gave their best, the result at the end was not a good one. “If the score in the first half remained 0-0, the story in the second half could have been a different one,” he said.

The Japanese coach said that, although the Chinese team missed a lot of chances in the first half, they were the better team. “We play with same objective always, and that is to attack, score and win any game. We’ll do the same for the remaining games against Qatar and Maldives,” he said.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, who had come to witness the game, told Kuensel that, although the team lost, they had made the nation proud. “Our boys gave their best. They’ve been getting better with every match right in front of our own eyes,” he said.

One of the Chinese fans said that Team Bhutan played a good game. “We enjoyed every moment of the game and especially the Dragon Boys playing on the home ground was the highlight of the game for me,” she said. “We’ll be cheering for Team Bhutan in the other games of the tournament.”

Tashi Tshering, a student, who came to witness the match, said that he was overwhelmed looking at the support for the Bhutanese team. “Today I witnessed the strong bond that Bhutanese have with each other. Win or lose, the crowd was behind the team. This is a victory in itself for us.”

Kuenga Dorji, a monk, said that seeing the national team take on the professionals head on at such level has encouraged him to believe that nothing was impossible for Bhutanese. “We might have lost today but this isn’t the end. We’ve a bigger and brighter future in football. One day we’ll be in the World Cup for sure,” he said.

By Younten Tshedup