Colts one step away from glory!

Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

KARACHI: Pakistan beat Bangladesh 2-0 in the semifinal at a rain-soaked Dashrath Rangasala Stadium in Kathmandu on Monday to set up a tantalising final against arch-rivals India at the inaugural South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Under16 Championships.

With the match heading towards a penalty shootout, Nowshera-born striker Mansoor Khan, who had also hit the lone goal in Pakistan’s 1-0 triumph over India in group stage, provided Pakistan the lead in the 89th minute when drive from 30 yards went over the keeper after a deflection off a Bangladesh defender. Pakistan then doubled their lead in injury-time when Chaman-born midfielder Sher Ali capitalised on a through ball from Zainullah.

“It was a good match altogether as Bangladesh gave us a tough time but my boys played according to the plan and in the end we were able to score two goals to move into the final,” the jubilant Pakistan coach Sajjad Mehmood said.

“The rain just stopped before kick-off and the pitch was muddy. Bangladesh players had an advantage because they are used to play in wet conditions. But still we were able to cope with the problem.”

Earlier, in the first-half, Pakistan dominated the game with their frontline inflicting incisive rallies from both wings. Midfielder Mohammad Zeeshan could have scored three goals but on every occasion, he failed to capitalise on passes from Mansoor Khan.

“We created a few good chances early on but were unlucky as Zeeshan failed to bury them,” Sajjad conceded.

In the second-half, Pakistan could have taken the lead but Masnoor’s kick from close-range went over the bar as Bangladesh struggled to pierce through Pakistan’s defence wall.

“In the second-half, we had clipped Bangladesh’s wings. We had completely marked their key midfielder till the final whistle which gave us great advantage,” Sajjad said.

In the other semifinal, India defeated hosts Nepal 4-2 on penalties after their match ended in a 1-1 draw. Nepal were leading the game 1-0 but in injury-time India bounced back with an equaliser which took the game into the penalty shootout.

The title showdown would be held on Wednesday (tomorrow). Nepal will face Bangladesh before the final on that day in the play-off for the third place.

And Sajjad is confident that Pakistan would be able to beat India in the final as well to clinch the title.

“India are a good team, but we have already beaten them in the league round and are confident that we will be able to beat them again,” he said.