By FPDC Staff
Pakistan ended their decade long drought at home after beating Afghanistan 2-1 in an International Friendly in Lahore, avenging the 3-0 loss suffered to the SAFF Champions in August 2013. Afghanistan toured Pakistan as part of the understanding to promote football and bilateral relations between the two countries.
Both teams had gone into the match with experimental sides with Pakistan having missed out on its overseas players through club commitments and injuries whilst Afghanistan had fielded it’s ‘B’ team owing to absence of some of their big names.
Nonetheless the match started in front of a large crowd seen after a long time at the Punjab Stadium with both set of fans cheering on their teams.
Afghanistan started brightly and almost caught out Pakistan goalkeeper Muzamil Hussain in the 3rd minute from a free-kick but he was quick off his line to get to the ball. Afghanistan continued their dominance as the inexperienced Pakistani players took their time settling into the game.
Afghanistan continued to pile the pressure in the opening 15 minutes with a number of corners and enforced free-kicks but it was Pakistan who shocked the visitors with a counter attacking goal, their first genuine attacking movement. Captain Hassan Bashir’s inch perfect cross was met by young sensation Muhammad Riaz who headed it into the bottom corner to send the fans wild on the 20th minute.
Afghanistan regrouped and reasserted their authority by maintaining most of the possession and playing in Pakistan’s half but the Shaheens young defence stood tall with the duo of Naveed and Bilal filling in for regular centre backs Zesh Rehman and Mohammad Ahmed. Afghanistan failed to trouble the goalkeeper with any clear cut chances and were often wasteful with their half chances.
Pakistani midfield was made to work extra hard without the ball, chasing and closing the opposition down, which was led by midfield dynamo Saddam Hussain, who had only joined the squad couple of days prior to the game. Pakistan almost doubled their lead with Mansoor Khan breaking free from his own half and going past the experienced Djelaludin Sharityar but failed to hit the target and collided with the goalkeeper Hamid Yousufzai in the process.
Pakistan went into half time holding their 1-0 lead after an impressive rear-guard performance.
Afghanistan brought in their influential play-maker Faysel Shayesteh who surprisingly wasn’t in the starting line-up. The visitors started the 2nd half just as they had started the 1st with Pakistani players looking shaky with the ball and easily conceding possession.
Afghanistan struck the equalizer 10 minutes into the 2nd half with a header from Ameeruddin Sharifi as Pakistani defenders failed to clear the incoming cross.
Playing at poor surface meant players struggled with their touch whilst controlling the ball and took lot of energy out of them especially the Pakistanis, who chased most of the game. Saddam Hussain and Mehmood Khan continued to break up plays but it was their decision making whilst attacking with the ball which let them down and Pakistan failed to apply sustained pressure for long periods.
Up-front Hassan Bashir, the lone man o continued to link up with his wide men Riaz and Mansoor, however poor supply meant Bashir was getting frustrated as Pakistan further dropped into their own half in defending the 1-1 score line.
Afghanistan continued to make regular substitutions which meant fresh legs on the field, as the visitors pushed for the winner the game opened up more for the hosts. Pakistan made changes too with Muhammad Tahir coming in for Saddam Hussain to aide in counter attacks. As the game entered the final 10 minutes Pakistan made another substitution bringing in Saad Ullah in place of Mansoor Khan to support Hassan Bashir up front.
As the game edged towards the end it was Afghanistan who continued to waste their chances and seriously carve out anything clinical to trouble the goalkeeper and were made to paid the ultimate price as Pakistan ended the game with flurry of attacks.
Pakistan earned a first of the two free kicks on the left side of the 18 yard box which was blasted over by Hassan Bashir but he was to have a chance at redeeming himself and redeem himself he did. Hassan whipped in the ball from the left side perfectly for Saad Ullah to head home and snatch a last gasp winner.
It sparked huge celebrations in the Pakistani dugout and the stands to mark a rare home win for the Shaheens, which they would hope to build on the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers starting next month.