Alam Zeb Safi [The News]
KARACHI: Pakistan salvaged some pride after inflicting a 2-0 defeat on Chinese Taipei in their final Group B match of the AFC Challenge Cup football qualifiers at the MBPJ Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
Pakistan, who failed to move into the tournament proper after suffering 3-0 and 3-1 defeats at the hands of their respective rivals Turkmenistan and India, finished third in the group with three points.
It was Pakistan’s first victory under coach Tariq Lutfi after eleven games and he couldn’t hide his joy after winning his first match since taking up the job in January.
“Finally we won,” Lutfi told ‘The News’ from Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
“Our round was a bit tough as India and Turkmenistan are good sides and that is why we failed to qualify for the tournament proper.
“Had Pakistan got at least four international friendly games ahead of this event the result would have been different.
“Now it is time to work harder for the development of football. The team needs intense exposure for proper nourishment. I felt that throughout the tournament the coordination between our midfield and frontline was weak which cost us a lot. We need technically sound players if we are to earn wins in international circuit.”
Pakistan made few changes with Alamgir Khan coming in place of defender Zeeshan Rehman who rushed to Thailand to join his club Muangthong United before the match while striker Kaleemullah was fielded in place of Syed Arif Hussain and striker Rizwan Asif was given chance in place of the experienced Mohammad Qasim.
Pakistan started brighter and kept their technically-sound rivals in great trouble throughout the encounter. Arif Mehmood put Pakistan 1-0 ahead in the 26th minute with his second goal of the tournament.
Chinese Taipei, who suffered 3-0 and 2-0 defeats at the hands of India and Turkmenistan, had two chances averted by Pakistan goalkeeper Aamir Gul.
In the second-half, Pakistan kept up the pressure and doubled their lead in the 68th minute through a brilliant effort from German Turkish-Pakistani defender Atif Bashir, who plays for Barry Town.
Lutfi, however, said that the foreign-based players should raise their fitness levels.
“Foreign-based players are technically good but they need to raise their fitness level. They should also be made bound to report for the camp at least twenty days before the start of the tournament,” Lutfi stressed.