Lahore, 15 December: Pakistan will take on Khalida Popal-led Afghanistan in their second Group-B match of first SAFF Women Football Championship at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on Thursday, 16 December.
With two straight defeats, Maldives made their exit from the tournament while Nepal struck 19 goals in two matches to book semi-final passage from Group-B. The second semi-finalist from the Group will be either Pakistan or Afghanistan.
Pakistan got their campaign off on the right foot while Nepal went goal crazy against Afghanistan in seaside town. Pakistan sneaked to a 2-1 win over Maldives courtesy of a late penalty while Nepalese forwards Anu Lama and Jamuna Gurang bagged four apiece in a 13-0 demolition of Afghanistan.
At one stage Nepal looked like overhauling India’s mark of 18 scored yesterday against Bhutan, but the woodwork denied the Himalayan nation four times to put paid to that hope.
Maldives took the lead early in the match. Aishath Fazla’s firm drive from the edge of the area crashed into the back of the net to give the islanders the early advantage. However, Pakistan’s greater physical strength came to the fore as the match wore on, and their forwards started to get into the game more and more.
They duly found the equaliser just before half-time when Mehwish Khan headed in a Malika Noor corner.The goal gave Pakistan a psychological advantage and they turned the screw in the second half. They were denied a second goal by a goalline clearance from Maldives captain Fadhua Zahir just after the hour mark but as the game progressed, a Pakistani winner looked more and more likely.The inevitable winner came about just before the end of the game and heartbreakingly for Maldives it was defender Nashima Ibrahim who handed the chance to the Pakistanis on a silver platter, by inadvertently hand-balling inside the area.Malaika Noor stepped up and calmly converted the penalty to give Pakistan a deserved win.
There were no such nerves for Nepal whatsoever.
Anu Lama played just a single half, but that was enough to grab four goals to add to her hattrick in the first game as the Nepalese had a virtual procession in their 13-0 win. Fellow forward Jamuna Gurang also came to the party and emulated her more illustrious teammate with four goals. Deepa Adhikari and Pramila Rai scored a brace each and Laxmi Paudwal chipped in with the other.
Thursday Fixture: Pakistan vs Afghanistan 2:30 pm