The Lions of Khorasan roared after a subdued start to blank Bangla Tigers 4-0 in a Group B match of the SAFF-Suzuki Cup football championship at the Greenfield Stadium here on Thursday.
After raising issues of poor organisation, the defending champion made an emphatic statement on the football field with an authoritative win.
Two goals in the space of a minute in the first half effectively snuffed out Bangladesh’s challenge.
Bangladesh kept a clean slate for quite a while, considering the quality and depth of the Afghanistan’s attack. Trouble started for Bangladesh in the 30th minute when goalkeeper Sahidul Alam parried away a low shot from Mustafa Hadid for a corner.
The corner was whipped in by Hassin Amin to an unmarked Zubayr Amri, who headed it back towards the Bangla goal where Masih Saighani rose above the defenders to head in the first goal in the 31st minute.
Afghanistan scored another in the very next minute as Zubayr Amri, after receiving a long ball from Saighani, squared it to captain Faysal Shayesteh who deftly lobbed it over the onrushing goalkeeper for the second goal.
The two quick goals effectively killed the contest and Afghanistan made it 3-0 in the 41st minute off a counter attack, a minute after Sohel Rana flunked an easy chance for Bangladesh. Mustafa Zazaias’s long ball found Zubyr Amri, who collected the ball and chipped it over the onrushing goalkeeper.
Bangladeshis then slowed down the tempo in the second half but it couldn’t prevent another Afghanistan goal. Khaibar Amani, who came on as substitute two minutes earlier, scored the fourth goal for his side in the 70th minute.
Earlier, former champion Maldives got its campaign off to a winning start with a 3-1 victory over Bhutan. Egged on by a few hundred supporters from the stands, Maldives took control from the start and had an opportunity in the second minute itself. But, Mohammed Hamza missed from close range after being put in position by Abdullah Asadhulla.
However, it didn’t take long for Maldives to open its account as Himas Ahmed, after receiving a through ball from the middle out-sprinted his two markers, scored in the ninth minute
In the 15th minute Bhutan’s Chenco Gyeltshen missed a chance when Maldives defender Ahmed Shaifu’s intended clearance came to him but the striker’s feeble attempt from just outside the box was wide off the mark.
However, Bhutan equalised in the 20th minute off a fine move initiated by captain Karun Narang who relayed the ball to Chenco on the right flank and the striker found an unmarked Tshering Dorji, who scored from inside the box with a left-footer.
The goal sparked off a spate of moves from Maldives but Bhutan’s goalkeeper Hari Gurung proved to be impregnable. The goalkeeper made at least four saves in the first half.
Asadullah restored the lead in the 30th minute when he deflected a free kick from Immaz Ahmed.
Maldvies dominated the second half but to no avail. Hari baulked many attempts from the Maldivians with his alacrity under the bar. It needed a stunning goal from Captain Ashaq Ali to settle the issue. Ali scored with a stinging left-footer from top of the box after warding off the threat from three defenders.
Afghanistan 4 (Masih Saighani 31, Faysal Shayesteh 32, Zubayr Amiri 40, Khaibar Amani 70) bt Bangladesh 0.
Maldives 3 (Imazz Ahmed 9, Abdulla Asadhulla 30, Ashfaq Ali 70) bt Bhutan 1 (Tshering Dorji 20).
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