SAFF Championship: 10-man Bangladesh dig deep to hold India

The Indian football team was held to a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh in their SAFF Championship 2021 opener in the Maldives.

By Naveen Peter
Picture by All India Football Federation

The Indian football team began its SAFF Championship 2021 campaign with a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh at the National Football Stadium in Male, the Maldives on Monday.

Captain Sunil Chhetri gave India the lead in the 27th minute, but a 74th-minute goal from Yeasin Arafat saw the teams share the points on the day.

India, a seven-time SAFF champion, started as favourites but looked out of sorts in the opening minutes. 

India’s passing was off and their forward line was unable to put any pressure on the Bangladeshi backline. The midfield, too, failed to hold on to possession.

The Bangladesh football team, meanwhile, made a relatively confident start with Biplu Ahmed and Jamal Bhuyan leading the charge. As the match progressed, though, India slowly grew into the match and managed to take the lead.

Following a turnover of possession, Udanta Singh showed his presence of mind to dart into the Bangladeshi penalty area and found an on-rushing Sunil Chhetri. The Indian ace buried the ball into the net for his side’s opener.

Bangladesh could have drawn parity minutes later, but for Biplu Ahmed’s powerful drive from a tight angle that missed the far post. 

Later, the 22-year-old Biplu Ahmed forced a fine save from Gurpreet Singh Sandhu as India headed into the break with a slender advantage.

The Indian football team began the second half much better and were soon handed another advantage after the Bangladeshi full-back Biswanath Ghosh received his marching orders for a careless foul on Liston Colaco.

However, as the match progressed, the Bangladeshi side overcame the numerical disadvantage with some precise passing. They did well to restrict the Indian attack and were quick to hit on the counter every time an opportunity presented itself. 

One such move saw Bangladesh earn a corner midway through the second half and they ensured they made it count. An unmarked Yeasin Arafat nodded in a Jamal Buyan corner to draw his team level.

Though the Bangladesh football team came close to finding a late winner, some purposeful defending from the Indians saw Igor Stimac’s men walk away from the match with a point.

Letting leads slip has been an issue for the Indian team under head coach Stimac. This was the fifth time in eight matches that India failed to make an advantage count since the Croat took charge.