Pakistan opened their account with a hard fought victory over 161st ranked Nepal in SAFF Suzuki Cup 2018 played at the capital city of Bangladesh Dhaka.
Late drama at the Bangabandhu National Stadium ended 2-1 to Pakistan marking their return to International Football after almost 2 years of absence.
Nawayug Shrestha who scored a hatrick against Maldives in SAFF Games 2016 and Bangabandhu Gold Cup 2016 lead the line for Nepal alongside Bimal Gharti Magar.
Pakistan started the game in 4-3-3 formation and as expected, Foakaidhoo FC Goalkeeper Saqib Hanif was on the bench as Yousaf Ijaz Butt kept his place in the starting XI. They came into this game with some confidence, having won the match against Nepal in the recently concluded Asian Games.
But, it was the Nepal who started the game with high attacking tempo putting Pakistan into pressure. Pakistan team tried to come into the game by holding possession and playing long balls.
The first good attack of the game came in the 12th minute when fullback Suman Aryal of Nepal put a delicious cross into the box from the left side and Nawayug Shrestha’s the header went wide. As the match goes by, both teams started playing well.
At the 33rd minute, Nepal concedes a penalty when Pakistan’s Muhammad Riaz was fouled by Nepalese Captain Biraj Maharjan. Hassan Naweed Bashir comfortably converted the resulting penalty past Nepal Goalie Kiran Kumar Limbu.
Nepal had a wonderful opportunity in the 39th to level the game before the half time when Defender Suman Aryal tried to put the ball into the net from Bimal Gharti’s corner. But, it went just right past in front of the Pakistani goal as First half ended 1-0 in favor of Pakistan.
In the second half, it was Pakistan who controlled the game and Nepal press them on counter attacks from both sides providing crosses by full backs. But, Pakistan defense held strong and firm. Pakistan brought attacker Saadullah for goal scorer Hassan Nawaz Bashir in the 55th minute and strengthen the defense by bringing defender Abdulah Nasir Qazi for forward Mehmood Khan. Nepal also brought fresh striker Sunil Bal for Bharat Khawas in the 73rd minute.
Substitute striker Saadulla had a great chance to double the lead in the 76th minute when he dribbled past through three Nepal defenders. His 40-yard strike hit the woodwork. Nepal pressed so much as the game came close to the end. As a result, Bimal Gharti Magar placed the ball into the far corner in the 81st minute from substitute Nirajan Khadka’s flip header to level the game.
With the equalizer, it was Nepal who tried to find the winner and Midfielder Sujal Shrestha had a good chance to grab 3 points but, he was denied by Pakistan goalie Yousaf Ijaz Butt. Gaining confidence from the save made by the goalkeeper, it was Pakistan who grab the 3 points in the dying minutes of the game with a superb counter attack. Unmarked Stiker Muhammad Ali scored the winner with a free header.
Host Bangladesh will play Bhutan in the second match of SAFF Suzuki Cup tonight at 19:00hrs Dhaka time.