Pakistan lost their opening match to arch-rivals India 1-0 in the South Asian Football Federation (Saff) Championship at the Dashrath Rangasala stadium in Kathmandu yesterday.
Despite the defeat, coach Shehzad Anwar said the team improved as a unit with just a week’s practice since losing 3-0 to Afghanistan last month.
Pakistan played well against defending champions India in Group A, claiming more than 70% of the ball possession, but an own-goal from captain Samar Ishaq in the 14th minute of the match came as a shock.
The own-goal was a result of a mix-up between Pakistan defender Kamran Khan and Ishaq, which also confused goalkeeper Yousuf Butt.
However, Pakistan hit back in style with continuous attempts at the goal. Key striker Hassan Bashir was unfortunate to hit the goal post five times, while Kaleemullah tried twice with Muhammad Riaz and Muhammad Mujahid working well as the linkmen for the forwards.
“We lost the match but played well after a very long time, it was an emotional match,” Anwar told The Express Tribune. “All the players are happy because for the first time they played as a unit; they gave a tough time to the Indians.
“For them, this win was just a lucky one. And overall, with this form, I can say that we can win against Nepal and Bangladesh in the following matches.
“Our Bahraini coach Mohamed Shamlan is very happy with the team,” added Anwar. “He said if the team continued with the way they played, he can work with that and Pakistan can easily beat India in three months.”
India and Nepal lead the board in Group A with a win each. Pakistan will play Nepal in their second match tomorrow.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2013.
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