Pakistan U16 Football Team made history here today(Monday) by going through to the final of the Inaugural SAFF U16 Championship. Pakistan’s two best players on the night Mansoor Khan and Sher Ali scored a goal each near the Full-Time whistle to secure a 2-0 victory for the young guns.
The overnight rain had left a soggy pitch in Kathmandu to play the semi-final on. In the first half, Pakistan came close to scoring at the half hour mark with Mansoor Khan and Muhammad Bilal playing a neat one two at the edge of the Bangladeshi box with the former’s powerful shot going agonizingly close. Bangladesh tried some counter-attacking football but the defence line brilliantly led by Muneer never let them through on goal. Just before the break a Mansoor Khan cross almost found Muhammad Zeeshan whose slide in on goal only missed the ball and glory by a fraction of a second. The game was generally well contested but remained goalless in the first half.
After the break, the game opened up as both sides went for the winning goal. The Pakistani players, donning fresh kits having replaced the ones wet in the first half, immediately had some chances to score with last ditch defending denying them goals. When Mansoor Khan’s beautiful free-kick hit the top of the cross bar to go out of play, extra time looked inevitable. But just before the 90 minute mark, Pakistan’s best player on the night Mansoor Khan struck a 25 yard shot over the Bangladeshi keeper to give Pakistan the lead. Just as the Bangladeshi boys started trying for a desperate last minute push to equalize, Coach Sajjad’ young guns put the nail in the coffin and made it 2-0. Sher Ali dribbled past two defenders to score from a tight angle and send Pakistan into the SAFF U16 Championship Final.
Pakistan U16 team will face the winner of today’s other Semi-Final between Nepal and India in the final. The Sajjad Mehmood and Hassan Baloch coached U16 team has won all its games and has yet to concede a single goal in the tournament so far. Thus there is a reason for optimism as the U16 team becomes the source of much needed joy for the Pakistani football fans.
Picture courtesy GoalNepal.com