Alam Zeb Safi [The News]
KARACHI: Striker Mansoor Khan scored the winner as Pakistan beat arch-rivals India 1-0 in their Group A encounter of the inaugural South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Under-16 Championships at the Dashrath Rangasala Stadium in Kathmandu on Monday.
Nowshera-born Mansoor capitalised on a through-ball to provide the Greenshirts with the lead in the 20th minute which lasted till the final whistle. “India is a good team and gave us a tough time but we played according to our plan which paid dividends,” Pakistan coach Sajjad Mehmood told ‘The News’ from Kathmandu on Monday.
“In the first-half, we were very aggressive and had put a lot of pressure on the rivals. Mansoor’s goal boosted our morale and they played after that with even more spirit which baffled the Indians.
“In the second-half, particularly in the last five to seven minutes we were in real trouble as India went all out but our goalkeeper Usman Khan made some great saves.” Sajjad added that Pakistan’s aggressive display helped them produce better results.
“We had made a plan to play with an aggressive strategy and we exactly did that. Because India were very smart and any thing defensive on our part could’ve hurt us badly,” he pointed out.
However, he said that due to intermittent downpour in the past few days the ground was muddy and the players had to struggle hard to put in their hundred per cent.
“Although the sun had sneaked out of the clouds and it was a bit warm today, the pitch was still muddy in some areas. Mansoor also had pulled his muscle and kept receiving treatment during the game while our skipper Muneer Aftab also had the same problem due to the heavy pitch and we had to replace him in the last few minutes,” he said.
Pakistan will now face Maldives on Wednesday (tomorrow) in their next game which will decide their fate for the semifinals of the six-team event. And Sajjad is eyeing another win to top the pool.
“We will not take Maldives lightly and will play with an even better spirit. If we hold them to a draw, we would still be able to finish as leaders in our group,” he concluded. Hosts Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have been placed in Group B. The semifinals will be held on August 8 and the final and the play-off for the third place will be conducted on August 10.