Akhi Khatun's two goals helped Bangladesh cruise into the final of the four-nation South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Under-15 Women's Championship with one match to spare after a 3-0 win against Bhutan in their second group stage match at Birshrestha Shaheed Sepoy Mohammad Mostafa Kamal Stadium in Kamalapur on Tuesday.
On the day's cool morning on artificial turf, player of the match defender Akhi broke the defending iceberg of Bhutan in the 13th minute by a header from the box connecting a corner pass of Marzia from left side to dominate the first half, 1-0.
Bhutanese were hell-bent all the remaining first half not to concede any more goal as their seven players built up a defending wall. Though, Bangladesh players were sharing short pass, putting continuous pressure with creating some opportunities, they could not materialise any further attempts piercing the Bhutanese guts.
Akhi-Marzia combination again put Bangladesh ahead in the 56th minute as Akhi scored her second one by a left footed shot from the top of the six yard box connecting a corner pass of Marzia from left side, 2-0.
Bangladesh's star sticker Tohura Khatun, who has recorded a three-goal hat-trick in the first game for a 6-0 win against Nepal on Sunday, was looking a bit imbalanced with her movement and the coach Golam Rabbani Choton decided to pull her out with Sajeda Khatun as replacement in the 65th minute.
Receiving a short pass from midfield, substitute forward Sajeda carried the ball to pass through the opponents defending shield from left flank and took the left footed shot from the top of the six-yard box in the 79th minute to pierce the post, 3-0.
This is the first time Akhi scored twice in an international game to record three international goals in her short career as she scored one goal for a 9-0 victory against Nepal in group stage battle of the AFC U-14 Women's Championship (zonal) in Tajikistan in 2016.
Bangladesh missed out couples of opportunities in the match as Monika Chakma's right footed shot from the right side of the box went edging the crosspiece in the 27th minute, before forward Anuching Mogini spoiled another chance as her shots from the top of the six-yard box rebounded from left post in the 36th minute. The last minute of the first half saw another fruitless attack by Bangladesh as Marzia's right footed attempt saved by goalie Karma Yuden.
In the 85th minute, a close-header attempt of Anuching Mogini from the box went over the crosspiece.
In the second half, Bhutan stunningly left the midfield area to Bangladesh players and played full defensive game, but the host side found the visitors net twice.
Bangladesh will play the final of the age level international tournament, against either India or Nepal -- both sides were due to qualify the final berth -- which is scheduled to be held on Sunday (December 24).