Yemen eliminate hapless Pakistan from AFC U16 spot

The 2012 AFC U16 Championship qualification Group B finally drew to a close in Kuwait City today on 22 September 2011. The much anticipated Yemen vs Pakistan clash at the Mohammed al-Hamad Stadium proved to be a bitter pill to swallow for our young colts as Yemen rampaged to a decisive 4-0 victory to not only qualify for the main round but also top the group in the process.

Pakistan had required a win in this final match to confirm their place in the next round after a stunning 3-1 win over Afghanistan 2 days back on 20 Sept 2011, while Yemen only needed a draw. After some tense exchanges for much of the second half, Yemen was rewarded a penalty after a foul by Pak defender Rashid Noor in the box after 41 minutes and earning himself a yellow card in the process. Yemeni striker Mohammed Abdullah Al-Dahi stepped up and slotted home the spot kick past Pak goalkeeper Usman Khan to give his side a vital lead in the match.

Incidentally, this was Rashid’s second penalty-awarding foul in the tournament after conceding one in previous game against Afghanistan. Yemen went into the half time break with a confident 1-0 scoreline, forcing Pakistan to chase the game to score at least 2 goals to take their chance of qualification. But Yemen started the 2nd half strongly, and Abdulhakim Ahmed gave them an imposing 2-0 lead in 50th minute amid confusion and panic in the Pakistan camp.

Yemen then won another penalty after a foul by Pakistan captain Munir Aftab in 71st minute that Al-Dahi slotted home with ease to give Yemen a 3-0 lead that surely deflated Pakistani hearts and resolve. Amid the frustrations of going 3-0 down, Pak midfielder Muhammad Zeeshan was sent off for a straight red card in 75th minute as Pakistan’s day turned from bad to worse.

Yemen fully utilised their extra man advantage and soon made it 4-0 through Gehad Abdulrab Ahmed in 84th minute to decide the tie beyond 10 man Pakistan’s reach once and for all.

Yemen prevailed in the end, knocking Pakistan out in the process and earning 10 points from 5 games. Pakistan earned 6 points from the 4 games. In the other game of the day at the Ali Sabah al-Salem Stadium, hosts Kuwait from behind to defeat UAE 3-1 and grab the 2nd qualification spot in the group. The final match of the group saw Afghanistan trounce Maldives 9-0 to finish in 3rd place above UAE, Pakistan and Maldives.

Pakistan U16 coach Sajjad Mehmood will look back at this campaign as some solid experience for his young boys in playing with more well-established teams from the Middle East, as well as realising the weaknesses and problems in the side that need to be rectified if they are to improve as a unit in future competitions.

As of yet, the other teams that have also qualified for the main round of 2012 AFC U16 Championship from other groups are Iraq, Iran, Syria, Oman, 2010 winners Korea DPR, China, Japan, Korea Republic, Thailand, Australia, and Japan.

Group B final standings for AFC U16 Championship 2012 qualifiers

Team GP W D L GF GA +/- Pts
YEMEN 5 3 1 1 13 4 9 10
KUWAIT 5 3 1 1 12 4 8 10
AFGHANISTAN 5 2 2 1 14 6 8 8
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES 5 2 2 1 11 5 6 8
PAKISTAN 5 2 0 3 7 9 -2 6
MALDIVES 5 0 0 5 0 29 -29 0