Wednesday 6 March 2013

Improved NMI conclude maiden Challenge Cup adventure

The Northern Mariana Islands ended their debut AFC Challenge Cup as they put in a vastly improved defensive performance losing just 3-0 to Bangladesh. Indeed the Blue Ayuyu's were unlucky not to get a goal themselves but ultimately strikes from Mohammad Toklis and Hossain Rony saw the Bangladeshi's win, though they missed a penalty and numerous other openings.

Brave...Adachi (no. 18) and his team fought hard.
For the 3rd game in a row the non-FIFA team conceded an early goal, this time Mohammad Toklis taking just 47 seconds to plant a header beyond Johann Noetzel. The NMI stopper had conceded 23 goals in his last 3 international outings before this match but the veteran had been key in keeping the other Challenge Cup scores down, and he was on hand to make his 2nd penalty save in as many games in the 12th minute when he turned Mithun Chowdury’s spot-kick round the post after the Abhani Limited striker was up-ended in the box. The FIFA side continued to dominate and in the 28th minute Hossain Rony found himself unmarked in the box saw his effort punched away by the ever-busy Noetzel. The striker did get on the score-sheet in the 38th minute when he headed home for his 3rd goal of the qualifiers. Further pressure failed to result in any goals and it was 2-0 at the break.

Solid...another Noetzel penalty save
kept the score down.
In the 52nd minute Mohammad Nasir should have added a 3rd but he shot wide from close range, and 3 minutes later Toklis was flagged offside after he’d poked Mithun Chowdhury’s free-kick past Noetzel. In the 68th minute the islanders nearly scored a sensational 1st goal of the campaign as Joe Miller played in William Dunn, but the veteran defender didn’t have luck on his side as his effort rattled back off the post. Noetzel made numerous saves as the FIFA side tried to add more goals but the former Dallas draft was in imperious form. He was eventually beaten again with 7 minutes remaining when Toklis completed a flowing team move to make the score 3-0. Defender Mohamed Linkon put the icing on the cake for Bangladesh in injury time as he calmly finished past Noetzel for his 1st international goal.

Whilst being a clearly outclassed in each match the Northern Mariana Islands defeats were by no means disgraced in what was their first full participation in the Asian Football Confederation, against some comparatively powerful sides. The islanders will have a long break after their extensive dedication to this tournament but will likely play again later this year to take on Guam in the Marianas Cup.

Match information – 

Score: Bangladesh 2–0 Northern Mariana Islands

Goals: Mohammad Toklis 1’, 83' Hossain Rony 38’ Mohamed Linkon 90 (+1)

Northern Mariana Islands XI: Noetzel; Dunn, Knecht, Swaim, Westphal, Jeon; McKagen [Joyner 88'], Barry, Adachi [Zapanta 77'], Loken; Miller.

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