Pakistan started their 2011 SAFF Cup campaign with a goalless draw to Bangladesh at the brand new Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, India. It was a match which Pakistan should have won, despite playing poor football. But in the end, a goalless draw was perhaps a fair result for Coach Zaviša Milosavljević’s first match in charge of Pakistan.
Pakistan started the match with the following lineup:
Rizwan Asif Samar Ishaq Kamran Khan M. Ahmed
Saddam Hussein Adnan Ahmed Kaleemullah Faisal Iqbal
Atif Bashir Jadeed Khan
The match ended with the following lineup:
Rizwan Asif Samar Ishaq Kamran Khan Manzoor Ahmed
M. Ahmed Adnan Ahmed Kaleemullah Faisal Iqbal
Shakir Lashari Hassnain Abbas
Overall, Pakistan played a typical Pakistani game, meaning that the midfield was mostly bypassed by long balls from the backline which were ineffectively chased by the hard working strikers. When the midfield and frontline did manage to get possession after intercepting Bangladeshi passes, then we saw glimpses of Pakistan’s attacking potential. The backline for the most part dealt effectively with the few Bangladeshi attacks which managed to get through the tough Pakistani midfield, but they must be taught to retain possession and build up the attack through the midfield. The strikers also need to improve their finishing, but lack of ball possession did not help.
Following are reviews of each player’s performance:
Jaffar Khan: Didn’t have much to deal with thanks to a strong defensive showing from the midfield and backline. However, he dealt well with a few corners and made a world class save in the second half to keep the match scoreless. His distribution was poor in the first half, but improved as the match went on. He was awarded the Man of the Match award by the tournament organizers.
Rizwan Asif: Played out of position at right fullback. He did well defensively, but should have gotten more involved in the attack. He also should have kept the ball on the ground instead of launching long balls to the strikers. Good strength and pace.
Samar Ishaq: Didn’t really have much to do. He wasn’t as active as his Center Back partner Kamran Khan, but did well enough. He had a couple of typical cock-ups, but they were dealt with by Kamran Khan.
Kamran Khan: The best defender for Pakistan yesterday. He often pushed up the pitch to help kill a Bangladeshi attack before it became dangerous. His tackling was solid and he was the master of the airspace in the Pakistani penalty box. However, he also needs to keep the ball on the ground when starting an attack.
Muhammed Ahmed: Did well defensively at left fullback. However, similar to Rizwan Asif, he should have gotten more involved in the attack and also passed the ball through the midfield rather than launching long balls. He ended the match at right midfield, but didn’t get much time there to create an impression.
Saddam Hussein: The Man of the Match, in my opinion. He showed great skill at times attacking down the right wing. At least half of Pakistan’s scoring chances involved him, and he was also involved in halting several Bangladeshi attacks in midfield. He needs to improve his ball control and crossing a little bit, but this youngster from PIA showed great potential and is certainly a future star for Pakistan.
Adnan Ahmed: The veteran midfielder hit the crossbar at the start of the match, but had a fairly quiet match otherwise. He was solid defensively and also controlled the airspace in midfield. However, he did not display much attacking flair, possibly because of the lack of opportunity to do so due to the long balls from the backline.
Kaleemullah: Had a solid match both offensively and defensively. He combined well with Jadeed Khan a couple of times, including a beautiful through ball which was slightly too far for Jadeed Khan to reach. He made a great solo run in the second half, but a nip on the heel caused him to lose his balance slightly and scuff the finish. Had he gone down, he may well have won a penalty for Pakistan. He needs to work on his crosses. He was also a strong candidate for Man of the Match.
Faisal Iqbal: The youngster from NBP showed good running off the ball on the left wing. However, he lacked pace at times and also missed Pakistan’s best chance of the match. He was rather clumsy defensively, but showed glimpses of attacking flair. He has some potential, but perhaps should make way for Muhammad Adil in the next match.
Atif Bashir: Started the match playing out of position as a striker. He dealt well with the long balls from the defence and made a few nice passes to open up the attack for Pakistan. However, he didn’t get into any threatening scoring positions himself, as should be expected of a striker. Perhaps should be moved back into the midfield or defence in the next match.
Jadeed Khan: Started the match poorly but improved as the match progressed. His first touch and pace let him down at times, but he showed great toughness and was involved in several good attacks. His crossing was also excellent. He should probably be used in a wing position, rather than as striker.
Hasnain Abbas: The substitute showed great attacking flair. He made good runs off the ball, and created a couple of excellent chances. However, he needs to improve his shooting.
Shakir Lashari: Was not on for long, but squandered a great chance to win the match right at the end of regulation time. He showed some potential, but perhaps needed more time to prove himself. He has good physique and should have used it to attack more aggressively. He should perhaps be given the start up front against Maldives along with Hasnain Abbas, with Atif replacing Samar at center back and Jadeed replacing Faisal at left midfield.
Manzoor Ahmed: Came in at left full back for the last few minutes. He didn’t really have much time to show his worth, but he dealt well with the little that came his way.
Zaviša Milosavljević: Well coached in his debut match for Pakistan. His starting lineup could have been slightly better, but he prepared a strategy and selected a lineup which allowed Pakistan to play to their strength, which is the long ball, defensive style of play. He was on his feet and communicating with the players throughout the match. His substitutions were effective. However, he needs to work on changing Pakistan’s style to possession football. This is not something which he can do in this tournament with the current squad, but it will be interesting to see what he can do in the future when he is able to select his own squad after scouting the remaining PPL matches.
A draw was a fair result for Pakistan in the end, although they could easily have won the match. However, the upcoming matches against Maldives and Nepal will be much tougher and Pakistan will really need to work on their finishing and ball possession in order to come away with something from those matches. A semi-final position is not impossible, but it may prove to be too difficult to achieve considering the performance against Bangladesh, the current squad, the late appointment of the coach, and Pakistan’s less than satisfactory preparation for this tournament.