Bangladesh ensured their place among the top six teams after 18 years in the Hockey Asia Cup when they defeated China 4-3 in the shootout in a thrilling encounter in the 5th-8th place classification semi-final at Maulana Bhasani National Hockey Stadium Thursday.
The men in red and green came back from a two-goal deficit in the last quarter to make the scoreline 3-3 after the end of stipulated time. Bangladesh showed great spirit and determination in the shootout as Russel Mahmud Jimmy's final conversion sent the home fans wild.
Bangladesh will now meet Japan once again in the 5th-6th place deciding match which will be held Friday at 5:30pm while China face Oman in the 7th-8th place decider on the same day at 3pm at the same venue. Bangladesh lost to Japan 3-1 in their last match of the group stage.
Since the introduction of classification round outside the semi-final stage in 2003, Bangladesh never managed to finish among the top six in the last four editions. They finished seventh in the last three editions (2007, 2009, 2013) and were placed eighth in 2003. In terms of points, Bangladesh were placed sixth out of nine countries in 1999 in Malaysia and in 1994 in Japan. They also finished sixth when Dhaka last hosted the Asia Cup in 1985 and since then, Bangladesh never managed to finish among the top five, which they can accomplish for the first time if they can beat Japan.
The host put up a bright display throughout the entire game with the exception of the second quarter where China scored all their three goals from penalty corners and Ashraful Islam pulled one back. A more dominant display in the last quarter earned Bangladesh two more goals through Milon Hossain and Khorshedur Rahman.
Bangladesh began the game brightly and seemed a different side compared to the group stage where they conceded three losses, scoring only once. They went close to scoring in the second minute when Pushkor Khisa Mimo hit the sidepost following a lovely scoop by Jimmy from the left side. Milon squandered a big chance in the eighth minute after a one-to-one with Mimo to break the opponent defence.
After two penalty corners in the first quarter, China earned three more PCs in the first minute of the second quarter and Talake Du converted the last one successfully, beating Asim Gope into his top-right corner. Talake doubled the lead within a minute from China's sixth PC and that too with the same combination and a similar shot into the top-right corner.
Bangladesh got two great chances in the following minutes with Naim Uddin missing the first one and Milon squandering the other.
Romman Sarkar earned the home side their first penalty stroke in the 25th minute and young defender Ashraful made no mistake hitting the back of the board from the spot.
Talake scored again to complete his hat-trick three minutes later, as well as extended their lead, from China's seventh PC.
The men in red and green appeared an improved side in the final two quarters. Milon failed to connect from three yards away from the post, following a Jimmy hit from the right side in the 36th minute. Four minutes later, Mainul Islam Kaushik’s drive from top of the circle hit the sidepost.
Bangladesh earned their first penalty corner five minutes into the last quarter but Ashraful’s shot didn’t trouble the opponent defence. The host earned another penalty within a minute following which, Milon reduced the arrears, connecting home a Khorshedur hit.
Khorshedur equalised a minute later from Bangladesh's fourth penalty corner, hitting the back of the net through the left side of the Chinese goalkeeper.
Asim was replaced by Abu Nippon in the shootout and the keeper repaid the faith with two brilliant saves. Shetul Farhad, Naim, Mimo and Jimmy converted their chances successfully while Dihao Meng, Zixiang Guo and Yang Ao converted for China. Sohanur Sobuj missed Bangladesh's third chance and Nippon denied China's third effort by Suozhu Ao and the fifth by Ziaoping Guo.
Bangladesh 3 (4)
(Ashraful 25-P, Milon 51, Khorshedur 52) 3 (3) China
(Talake 16, 17, 28)
Bangladesh v Japan, 5:30pm
China v Oman, 3pm