Winning starts for Pakistan, Bangladesh
Dhaka: Muhammad Ali scored in the dying embers to give Pakistan a 2-1 win over Nepal in their opening 2018 SAFF Cup Group A against Nepal at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on Tuesday.
Hosts Bangladesh also enjoyed a flying start as they defeated Bhutan 2-0 in Group A's second match of the day.
It was a great start to Pakistan's campaign as Nepal had started the brighter of the two sides and came close to scoring on several occassions.
However, Pakistan took a 1-0 lead into half-time break after Nepal’s Biraj Maharjan brought Mohammad Riaz down in the box in the 36th minute. Hassan Bashir easily converted.
Nepal pressed for the equaliser but only drew level in the 82nd minute, with Bimal Magar finding the back of the net.
Just when a draw seemed the likely result, Ali scored off a speedy counter attack to seal all three points for Pakistan.
Pakistan head coach Jose Antonio Nogueira said: “Nepal played very well but we were also strong so it was a balanced game. Nepal had more possession, but if you look back, we were the more attacking team."
Nepal head coach Bal Gopal Maharjan said his team failed to defend well.
"This result is very unfortunate. Pakistan had the advantage of height and played to this advantage by focusing on set-pieces. They were successful in playing the counter-attacking game. We should have defended better,” said Maharjan.
In the day's second match, Bangladesh took the lead in the third minute through a penalty converted by Topu Barman after Saad Uddin was brought down by Tshering Dirji of Bhutan.
Despite dominating, Bangladesh had to wait till the 47th minute for their second goal with Mahbubur Rahman scoring with a right footed shot to the bottom left corner of the net.
“The boys played exceptionally well today. We scored both our goals at the right time. I thought we deserved to win the game, they’ve worked extremely hard up to this point. It was tough but we got the three points,” said Bangladesh head coach Jamie Day.
Despite the loss, Bhutan coach Trevor Morgan was happy with his side’s effort.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more from the players in terms of effort. I think we’re lacking a bit in quality, a bit in in-game management. I was really pleased with the performance today.
"We were under a bit of pressure from the set-plays in the first half, but the longer the game went, the better we could deal with them," said Morgan.
Bangladesh will play Pakistan in a top-of-the-table clash on Thursday while Nepal and Bhutan will square off.
Nepal 1-2 Pakistan
Bangladesh 2-0 Bhutan
Group B (Local time)
India v Sri Lanka (19:00)
Source: Lagardere Sports