By Shahrukh Sohail at the Jinnah Stadium, Islamabad
Pakistan opened their account in the 2014 SAFF Women’s Championship in the Federal Capital with an 11:00 am kick-off against Sri Lanka. However, despite being favourites, Pakistan weren’t able to claw past the opposition and ultimately lost with Sri Lanka scoring two goals in either half.
The Lankans started on the front foot and almost took a shock lead inside the opening few minutes, but Pakistan’s defence was well-marshaled by Army’s Malaika Noor at the back.
However, Pakistan’s failure to clear an attack in the 31st minute resulted in the tournament’s opening goal that somehow found the top corner with Syeda Mahapara failing to notch the ball in time.
A strong tackle to star striker and captain Hajra Khan, meant that the BUWFC forward struggled to be at her brilliant best and subsequently Pakistan were unable to carve out any notable openings in the first half.
After the break, coach Tariq Lutfi made an immediate substitution with Zulfi coming off and Shayan coming on to replace her. Pakistan continued holding the lion’s share of possession but despite Hajra’s consistent runs up-front, there was no seemingly no end product to cheer on the 1,000 odd crowd present inside the 45,000 capacity stadium.
It was Hajra again who worked her way through several defenders on the 81st minute and squared the ball to Malika, whose long-range drive wasn’t able to find the target. The Army star later again showed her worth with a well-taken free kick but Sri Lankan goalkeeper Wijeratne was hardly troubled.
To freshen things up, coach Lutfi sent on Joanne to replace the unimpressive Abiha Haider on the flank, but despite the change, it was Sri Lanka who made things count and capitalized on cheap giveaway to Kumudumala, who drifted past several defenders and curled the ball beautifully l to make it 2-0.
Pakistan did have a consolotion a little while later with Hajra finding the back of the net, but it was too little, too late for Lutfi’s girls, who could face an early exit from the tournament unless they come out with a positive result against Nepal.