Khaled Salem, Sameh Maraaba and Layth Kharoub each netted one within the first 26 minutes to make things difficult for a high-scoring Burundi side
A dazzling opening half-hour paved the way for Palestine to retain the Bangabandhu Gold Cup title with a 3-1 win over Burundi in an entertaining final at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka Saturday.
Khaled Salem, Sameh Maraaba and Layth Kharoub each netted one within the first 26 minutes to make things difficult for a high-scoring Burundi side.
Although they lost, Burundi became the only side to break the Palestine defence in the six-nation meet with a consolation goal at the hour mark.
Burundi started with a more defensive formation than in their previous three matches, where they scored 10 goals.
However, their fort fell down like house of cards after only three minutes in the face of spectacular build-up by the Palestine attackers.
Maraaba, the man of the match, split the Burundi defence with a brilliant lob for Mohamed Darwish, who fed the ball to an unmarked Khaled Salem for a simple tap-in. It was Salem’s third goal in the meet.
It was Maraaba who doubled the lead seven minutes later, with a chip from Palestine keeper Aime Fales’s clearance.
The chip was perhaps intended for his teammates, but it bounced into the net after a goal-mouth scramble.
In the 20th minute, Burundi were denied by two back-to-back saves by Aime Fales.
The keeper first deflected Burundi captain Tambwe Amissi’s scissor kick, and then stopped Ndikumana Asman’s attempt on the rebound.
Kharoub put more salt on the early wounds when he scored the team’s as well as his third goal, with a low effort after Khaled’s intial effort from outside the box rebounded off the woodwork.
Nshimirimana Jospin, who had scored seven goals in the last three matches, found it difficult to get as much space as he did in previous encounters.
The striker still managed get a scissor kick on target, but the Palestine keeper was alert.
Burundi went all in after the break with a tactical change.
They reduced their three-man backline to strengthen the attack, and finally got a lifeline at the hour mark.
Defender Ndikumana Asman pulled one back with a right-footed finish, after a deflected cross slipped from the hands of diving Aime Fales.
Fales was named best goalkeeper of the tournament, as he conceding only one goal in four matches.
“It was not an easy game because Burundi are strong, aggressive and have good attacking players. But our defence was solid, with good organization to keep the lead,” Palestine coach Makram Daboub said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina congratulated both the finalists before handing out trophies and medals to the participants as the chief guest.