KARACHI: Pakistan got off to a poor start in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup as they went down to Turkmenistan 3-0 in Kuala Lumpur.
The Group B match of the tournament, serving as a qualifier for the 16th Asian Cup, turned out to be an anti-climax after Pakistan conceded the opening goal in just the seventh minute through Urazov Didarklych.
Pakistan then suffered the loss of defender Manzoor Ahmed, who was red-carded in the 30th minute. The 10man Pakistan team, however, was able to go into half-time trailing 1-0.
But there was no respite from Turkmenistan after the match resumed as two minutes into the second-half, Pakistan saw the deficit being doubled. Midfielder Amanov Arslanmyrat fired the goal before Pakistan missed three attempts to open their account. If there was any hope Pakistan had of staging a dramatic comeback, striker Karadanov Mamedaly's sealed the match in Turkmenistan's favour.
“Turkmenistan is one of the better teams in Asia,“ Pakistan coach Tariq Lutfi told The Express Tribune. “In comparison, our team's finishing on the goal is a huge issue.
“They lose their cool when it comes to crunch situations in the match. We failed to avail three opportunities and that's not a good sign. It shows that there has been no progress.“
According to Lutfi, the team started off with an attacking frame of mind but after the early goal, Pakistan were put on the back foot and failed to recover.
Pakistan's ranking is the worst among the Group B teams. They stand at a low 171st place while Turkmenistan are 154th.
Pakistan next play India tomorrow, who are also 26 places above them in the Fifa rankings. But the coach was adamant Pakistan will play with a fighting spirit against the arch-rivals.
“It will be a very competitive match. The team will play with a different spirit against India. Our target will be not to concede early goals in the match. It has been our weakness in the past and I would want to change it,“ said Lutfi.
`Players need time to improve' Lutfi also defended the team saying that the standard in Pakistan is improving gradually and the young players will take some time to gain the much-needed interna tional experience. Pakistan need to win the next two matches against India and Chinese Taipei to qualify for the 16th Asian Cup for the first time that is scheduled to take place in Australia in 2015.
“When we go in the field our goal is to win the match, otherwise there is no point in playing in the first place,“ said Lutfi.
India down Chinese Taipei While Pakistan lost a onesided encounter, their archrivals India were off to a better start in the other group match yesterday as they beat Chinese Taipei 3-0.
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