The 2012 AFC U16 Championship qualifiers Group B saw Pakistan defy all odds, and expectations, to beat Afghanistan 3-1 at Ali Sabah al-Salem Stadium in Kuwait City in a late night kick off (2330 PST). The win brought life back into Pakistan’s chances of qualifying for the next round of the championship.
After disappointing results against Kuwait and UAE U16 sides, Pakistan went into this game facing a daunting task of overcoming an impressive and solid Afghanistan side that had drawn against all the strong sides and had beaten Yemen 2 days back. Sure enough, Pakistan played with caution and looked to hit Afghanistan on the break.
Despite having the possession advantage, Afghanistan’s defence failed them as Pakistan suddenly pounced just before half-time when Muhammad Bilal headed in a bouncing long-ball past the Afghan goalie Abdullah Qader to shockingly put his side 1-0 up. Afghanistan responded by going on all out attack as they found gaps in Pak midfield and nervy defence.
Afghanistan were then awarded a dubious penalty in 55th minute following a push by defender Rashid Noor on an Afghan striker in the box. Mohammad Amin then duly equalised for Afghanistan as they stepped up the pressure to take the lead but some poor shot selection, and an offside meant it remained a tense 1-1 with Pakistan desperate for some breathing space.
Mansoor Khan then stunned the Afghan side in 74th minute when he selfishly side-stepped 3 Afghan defenders and volleyed in a goal for Pakistan after Afghan goalie had saved his initial shot. The goal shocked the Afghan side who despite all their efforts failed to test the opposition more, as Pak kept sniffing around for that vital counter attack.
Sure enough, Pakistan put the result beyond Afghan hands as they made it 3-1 in 84th minute thanks to another Mansoor Khan special. Observers have called this win by Pakistan U16 nothing less than a shock against Afghanistan, as it re-starts their quest for qualification to final round in 2012.
Now Pakistan require a win in their final group game against Yemen on 22 September to be certain of qualifying with a top two finish. In other results, Yemen shocked hosts Kuwait with a 2-1 win while UAE hammered Maldives 6-0 earlier in the day.