Sagorika’s late strike sends Bangladesh to final

A stoppage-time strike from forward Mst Sagorika took hosts Bangladesh to the final of the SAFF Under-19 Women’s Championship with a 1-0 win over favourites India at the Birshreshtha Shaheed Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Kamalapur today.

Sagorika, who had scored a brace against Nepal in their opening match, left it very late, netting the ball with a brilliant finish in the second minute of stoppage time in the second half to take Bangladesh to the final.

With two successive wins, defending champions Bangladesh are now at the top of the four-team table with six points, three more than India and Nepal, who will square off against each other for the right to face Bangladesh in Thursday’s final.

Bangladesh, meanwhile, will next play a dead rubber against bottom-placed Bhutan in their last group match on Tuesday.

Earlier, India had the upper hand throughout the first half as the women in red and green looked a bit nervous against the pressing from their cross-border rivals, who came into the match on the back of a 10-0 win over Bhutan.

India’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup playing captain Nitu Linda controlled the midfield while forwards Sulanjana Raul and Pooja threatened the Bangladesh backline time and again through the left flank.

India’s left-winger Neha caused a lot of trouble, winning the duel against Bangladesh right-back Eity Khatun a few times.

But goalkeeper Swarna Rani came to the rescue of the home side, most notably when she denied Neha’s attempt in the 12nd minute at the cost of a corner.

Bangladesh also came close to breaking the deadlock in the stoppage time of the first half but Afieda Khandokar’s free-kick from the edge of the box went inches over the crossbar.

After resumption, Bangladesh looked more composed and kept India under pressure but could hardly test their solid back-line.

Bangladesh came close to taking the lead twice through corner kicks, but Afieda and Surman Jannat squandered the chances.

Bangladesh got a great opportunity to take the lead came in the 87th minute when unmarked Munki Akhter was in a one-on-one situation against the opposition goalkeeper but the forward struck the ball straight to the onrushing goalkeeper and the chance went begging.

In the next minute, India also went close to breaking the deadlock with Bangladeshi defenders standing still, anticipating an off-side call. Defender Surma Jannat ran back to deny Pooja and bail Bangladesh out of the predicament.

Then came the decisive moment of the match, when Alfeida passed a precise long-ball towards the opposition goal and Sagorika slipped past three opposition defenders, took the ball inside the box and struck it past the right side of the keeper to send the home crowd into a raucous applause.



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