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Penalty saver is the new hero of Bangladesh

Bangladesh won the SAFF U-15 championship this weekend and their substitute goalkeeper played a huge part in it. Mehedi Hasan saved no less than five penalties in the last two games of the competition, allowing his country to win their 2nd SAFF U-15 trophy, after 2015.

Bangladesh celebrating the victory at the SAFF U-15 championship

If Bangladesh were looking for a hero, they got one last week! At the SAFF U-15 championship, Mehedi Hasan was the reserve goalkeeper. In the semi-final against India, he had to deputise for Mitul Marma, who was suspended. After a 1-1 draw, the contest went to penalties. And despite the high pressure, the kid saved two shots, sending his team to the final.

Relive the SAFF U-15 championship on mycujoo

He first denied Patre Harsh Shailesh before stopping superbly the attempt of Pautu Lalrampana, diving to his right side. His teammates did the rest by scoring all their penalties, affording themselves the possibility to regain a title they had won in 2015.

But the final against Pakistan was never going to be a piece of cake. The Pakistanis had won their two group games convincingly versus India (2-1) and Bhutan (4-0), and were even more impressive in the semi-final against the Nepalese hosts, beaten 4-0. In this game, Pakistan scored three penalties in the space of 20 minutes, showing their ability in this very specific exercise...

And yet again, the final became a story of penalties. Whilst Bangladesh opened the score early in the game (25’) on a corner kick, Pakistan came back from the spot, following a reckless challenge in the box. A shot that Mitul Marma, back between the sticks, could not stop.

However, two minutes before the final whistle, the Bangladesh coach Parvez Babu decided to take his chance: he sent Hasan on the pitch and Marma returned to the bench, for the potential upcoming penalties. And the bet was the right one: the game finished 1-1 and once more, the result had to be decided via spot kicks. Bangladesh started first, and Rajon Howladar sent the ball into the sky. The situation seemed to be desperate for the Bangladeshis, but that was without counting on their new talisman...

He stopped the next two penalties of Pakistan, one on each side of the post. Suddenly Bangladesh were ahead again, but the session was to be dramatic. Rabiul Alam missed the fifth attempt for Bangladesh and as a consequence, forced Hasan to stop the last one of Pakistan to make his team win. And what do you think he did? He denied Mudassar Nazar, sending his country to heaven for the second time in their history. Just watching the madness on the bench after the win, you will certainly realize what it meant to Bangladesh.

Disappointment was high for Pakistan, but also the pride to have reached that level, as expressed by the Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) chief Faisal Saleh Hayat: "the players played with a fighting spirit. They could not win the crown but they did win the hearts. Coach Jose Portella has done well to make them a spirited unit. They have shown to the world that Pakistan has been blessed with a lot of wonderful talent".

For Parvez Babu, the emotion was high: "I can’t express my feelings in words. The players worked hard on the pitch. We tried to play following the guidance of our technical director Smalley. The game was like a war against Pakistan."

But Bangladesh won not only thanks to the extraordinary performance of their goalkeeper, but also by offering an interesting and efficient football, proof being striker Nihat Jaman Ucchash finishing top scorer with four goals, while Ashikur Rahman was just behind with three. If on top of this you remember that the women's U-15 team reached the final of the same competition (losing to India) over the summer, the future looks very promising for Bangladeshi football...

Relive the SAFF U-15 championship on mycujoo