Kuwait 1-0 Bangladesh (a.e.t): Blue Wave seal place in SAFF Championship 2023 final with hard-fought win

Kuwait players celebrate their goal against Bangladesh.
Kuwait players celebrate their goal against Bangladesh.

Kuwait edged Bangladesh 1-0 after extra-time in the first semifinal of the SAFF Championship 2023 to make it into the final of the tournament. Abdulla Albloushi scored the only goal of the game towards the end of the first half of extra-time in the match at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday, July 1.

Bangladesh began this knockout clash in fabulous fashion, carving out an opportunity inside the opening 90 seconds. A swift counter-attack saw the ball reach Rakib Hossain on the right. Hossain saw an opening and cut it back for the onrushing Shekh Morsalin, but his effort was saved well by Abdulrahman Marzouq.

It was then Kuwait's turn to create their first chance of the game a few minutes later. Javier Fernandez's men failed to clear a corner and the ball reached Mobarak Alfaneeni on the right. He chipped a cross that was met by his teammate, but Isa Faysal made a perfectly timed slide to clear the header off the line.

Neither team could then create any clear-cut openings until the midway point of the first half. While Kuwait repeatedly made their way to the byline on either flank, their end product was found wanting. Bangladesh also held firm in defense to keep their opponents at bay when they did come up with a decent final ball.

Bangladesh got another shot on target in the 28th minute through Tariq Kazi's strike from distance, but it was easily collected by Marzouq. Kuwait responded by winning a free-kick, which was initially cleared, but Eid Alrashidi picked it up on the left and whipped a cross into the box.

Alrashidi's effort seemed to be dipping under the crossbar before Rahman palmed it out and the ball was eventually cleared out.

With the game slowly opening up, Fernandez's men created another opening thanks to some neat play down the left between Jamal Bhuyan and Morsalin. The latter got past his marker to send a cross to the back post, which was met by Rakib, but his shot looped into Marzouq's waiting arms.

Following a brief period of few chances, it was Kuwait's turn to cause problems for Bangladesh. Close to the 40th minute, Alrashidi and Fawaz Alotaibi played a delightful one-two before the former unleashed a left-footed effort on goal. Rahman did well to get down in time to palm it behind for a corner.

The remainder of the first half, including four minutes of stoppage time, passed by without many incidents of note as the teams went into the break at 0-0.

Bangladesh hold off Kuwait onslaught to take SAFF Championship 2023 semifinal to extra-time

Kuwait began the second half with much more energy than they did the first, forcing Bangladesh back into their half early on. However, the Red and Green weathered the storm without conceding a single shot in the first seven minutes after the break.

This in turn allowed them to apply some pressure of their own and record the first shot of the half in the 55th minute. Some excellent close control by Sohel Rana allowed him to find Rakib Hossain in space. Hossain fired an effort towards goal, but it flew just inches over the crossbar.

Javier Fernandez's men then created their best chance since the opening minutes of the game. After winning the ball high up the pitch, the ball was fed to Sheikh Morsalin, who in turn found Hossain on the right. With nobody to aim to in the box, he chose to try and thread the needle at Abdulrahman Marzouq's near post.

Luckily for Kuwait, the ball slammed against the crossbar and rolled across the goal-line.

This seemed to be the wake-up call Rui Fernando's troops needed as the upped their intensity in the final third, forcing Bangladesh's backline into action.

They first won a free-kick on the edge of the area and the resulting set-piece from substitute Ahmad Aldhefeery was saved by Anisur Rahman. The Blue Wave pieced together another attack after the ball was cleared out for a throw-in, forcing a couple of half-clearances.

The ball then reached Eid Alrashidi, who fired an effort on target with his left foot. Once again, Rahman did well to save the shot before it was cleared out.

Kuwait, keen to seize the initiative after re-finding their pass-and-move game, continued to apply sustained pressure on the Bangladesh backline. Substitute Mohammad Abdullah, operating on the left, made some excellent runs, one of which led to an opening, but fellow substitute Athbi Saleh half-volleyed it over.

Saleh received two more chances to break the deadlock shortly after. The first of those came via some route one football following a ball over the top, but his shot was repelled brilliantly by Rahman.

A more patiently worked move and some superb skill from Aldhefeery on the right saw Saleh receive another good opportunity in the box. Once again, his shot was powerful but Rahman came up with the answer.

Bangladesh did test Marzouq in between those chances via a long-range effort from Morsalin. However, the forward's swerving shot from distance was easily saved and provided very little respite as Kuwait dominated possession and created the better chances.

Moments into seven minutes of added time, the Blue Wave created one more excellent opening with a route one move. Khaled Haijah's ball over the top from defense found Abdullah, who took it down and chopped into his right foot brilliantly. The forward then struck a curler that evaded the bar by mere inches.

Abdullah Albloushi's late strike guides Kuwait to summit clash as Bangladesh fall short

Kuwait resumed their dominance from the second half to start extra-time, pegging Bangladesh back.

Aldhefeery's skill on the ball once again led to a chance, the first of the additional 30 minutes. His cross to the far post was met by the onrushing Abdullah, but the side-footed volley could only find the side netting.

As Bangladesh struggled to apply pressure on the Kuwait defense, the latter went close midway through the first period of extra-time. This time, Abdullah found space on the right on the counter attack and slid the perfect ball across the box to Shabaib Alkhaldi, who had escaped his marker. However, Anisur Rahman made himself big once again to save Alkhaldi's effort.

The Blue Wave continued to dominate proceedings as the first half of extra-time inched towards its end. Their pressure eventually paid off in the first minute of added time.

From a throw-in, Kuwait worked the ball through their midfield to find Abdullah in space on the right as Bangladesh switched off. He slid in Abdullah Albloushi, who ran at his defender before arrowing a right-footed effort into the far corner past a helpless Rahman to give his side the lead moments before the break.

The second half of extra-time largely saw Kuwait's game management come to the fore as they kept Bangladesh at bay in the opening minutes. However, the Red and Green created two fantastic opportunities in the final five minutes.

The first fell to substitute Rahmat Mia, who struck a decent effort from distance. Marzouq, though, was on hand to collect it. The second chance came after Rakib Hossain latched onto a long ball to move into the box. However, he took it too wide before taking a shot and Marzouq repelled it with his feet at his near post.

Bangladesh refused to lie down, but ultimately couldn't find the goal they needed as Kuwait weathered the storm to make it into the SAFF Championship 2023 final.

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Edited by Anantaajith Raghuraman
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