Pakistan returned to the international football with a dramatic 2-1 win over Nepal in the opener of the SAFF Championships 2018 at the Bangabandhu National Stadium on Tuesday.
Pakistan played their last international match precisely 1260 days ago in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Yemen. Since that qualifier in March 2015, Pakistan football team was out of the international fold due to internal turmoil. Pakistan drew inspiration from the match of the recently-concluded Asian Games where they beat Nepal 2-1.
Nepal and Pakistan have met 14 times so far in international football. Nepal have won five and have lost four matches, the other the five matches ended in draws. Both teams met last time in SAFF championship 2013 playing a 1-1 tie.
Nepal dominated the first quarter of the match with their pace and precision sending Pakistan glued into their half but a pilfer proof defending kept them in the bay.
However, Pakistan enjoyed the first chance in the 23rd minute when Mohsin Ali looped a cross at the top of the eight yard box but forward Muhammad Ali’s drive deflected off a Nepali defender.
Pakistan’s joy knew no bounds in the 35th minute when Nepalese skipper Biraj Maharjan’s push brought forward Muhammad Riyaz down in the middle of the box prompting Jordanian referee Hasan Mahmoud Arafah to the spot. Hasan Naweed Bashir, the Pakistani forward sent Nepal custodian Kiron Kumar in the wrong way as Pakistan took the unexpected lead (1-0)
Nepal piled up considerable pressure for the equalizer earning three corners in the following minutes and among them Suman Aryal’s close range header was saved with the last ditch effort of goalie Yusuf Butt.
The pursuit continued after the change of ends but the scoreline remained same till the hour mark. Nepal forwards roamed the Pakistani zone freely but could not find the space to finish.
Nepal was fortunate in the 75th minute when substitute forward Saadullah capitalizing the free space due to the attacking approach of Nepal hit the crosspiece from 35 yards out.
But Bimal Gharti Magar, finally succeeded to break the Pakistani resistance in the 82nd minute when Sujal Shreshta curved a corner that was headed by Niranjan Khadka in the path of Bimal whose quick left footed placing landed into the left hand post of Yusuf Izaj Butt (1-1)., Nepal wildly celebrated the strike.
However Yusuf Butt pulled out two spectacular saves in the 90th minute punching and fisting two fierce drives of Bishakl Rai and Sujal Shreshta saving Pakistan from conceding.
With the match going towards a draw Muhammad Ali headed a home the winner in the last minute of the five minute added time of the match.