By Shahrukh Sohail, Chief Editor, Islamabad
Hosts India beat Pakistan 1-0 in their first friendly in Bangalore courtesy of captain Sunil Chhetri’s goal despite going down to 10 men.
Despite losing, the Young Pak Shaheens played well and piled the early pressure on India, with right-back Faisal Iqbal particularly making use of space on the flank.
The tone of the match was set early and India demonstrated that with striker Robin Singh fighting for every ball with Pakistani defenders, something which cheered on the packed crowd at the Bangalore Stadium.
India slowly started getting into the game but were restricted to long-range drives, with Pronoy Haldar having a go on the 16th minute. But Pakistan fought back immediately with Mehmood Khan build-up well and almost putting captain Kaleemullah through, but the referee pulled it back for a goal-kick.
Arguably Pakistan’s best player on the day, goalkeeper Muzammil Hussain, put in a great shift, denying the Indians several goal-scoring chances and even did his sweeping duties by coming out of the box to clear the ball.
Dordoi Bishkek midfielder Saddam Hussain also had a good game, where his highlight was beating a couple of Indian players and having a crack at goal from distance on 33 minutes. However, the game took a major turn just before half-time as Kaleem put in a free-kick and a fumble in the box, led the ball to Riaz with the goal at his mercy.
However, the K-Electric midfielder failed to connect from a few yards and moments later, Pakistan were punished as India scored through a corner.
Robin Singh headed the ball onto the post but Sunil Chhetri was there to put the ball into the net with India going 1-0 up at the break.
After the breather, Pakistan started the game emphatically, with striker Kaleem’s goal-bound header being well saved by goalkeeper Amrinder Singh.
With the Shaheens chasing the game, coach Shamlan put on Sher Ali for Abdus Salam and Mansoor Khan on for Mehmood Khan, but it was goalkeeper Muzammil that held the score line to 1-0.
The WAPDA shot-stopper first denied Chhetri a brace by saving his shot-cum-cross and then ran off his line to prevent India from claiming their second.
On the 68th minute, Pakistan were handed an advantage as Robin Singh was sent off for a second yellow card following his tussle with Ehsanullah, leaving India exposed up-front.
Indian boss Wim Koevermans responded immediately making changes for the Sandesh Jinghan to come off for Shankar Samangiraj. But it was Pakistan who should have scored as Sher Ali put in Kaleemullah through on goal with a superb pass, but the forward failed to the find the net under pressure from the Indian defender.
That buoyed the Pakistan line-up, with Mohammad Riaz having a go from a volley, only to see his effort go just wide on the 85th minute. India even threatened to concede an own goal in injury time, but the crossbar to come their rescue as they held on for a nervy 1-0 triumph.