SAFF Women’s Championship: Superior Nepal oust lackluster Pakistan

SAFF Women’s Championship: Superior Nepal oust lackluster Pakistan

By Shahrukh Sohail & Sohaib Hassan at the Jinnah Stadium

The Chelis were easily the dominant side in Islamabad, as they put hosts Pakistan out with a superb performance that sees them top Group ‘B’ of the 2014 Women’s SAFF Championship.

With an attacking outlook right from the beginning, Nepal opened up Pakistan’s meagre defence with ease and only sweeper Malika Noor demonstrated basic footballing techniques to keep the opposition out.

Goalkeeper Mahapara, who had an extremely questionable outing apart from a few saves, saw her net bulge within 14 minutes as Anu Lama blasted the ball into the top corner after finding space in the box.

Things then went from bad to worse for Pakistan within 10 minutes as they gave away a needless penalty and Rana stepped up to take the score to 2-0. Coach Tariq Lutfi then decided to make an an immediate change with Zulfi coming off and Abiha Haider replacing her on the 30th minute.

However, that failed to stop the rotting backline, who looked vulnerable whenever Nepal ventured forward. And to add pace to their team, the visitors themselves made a substitution on the 37th minute with Dipa Rai coming on for Bhujanga Rai.

That showcased the story of the first half as Pakistan were held in their box for most the opening 45 minutes with goalkeeper Mahapara being consistently exposed by oncoming Nepali attackers, but the score remained 2-0 at the break.

In the second half, Pakistan tried to venture more often but the supply lines to captain Hajra Khan were completely negated by the Nepali defence and rather it was the hosts, who had the most work to do in defence.

Goalkeeper Mahapara, who didn’t have a great outing against Sri Lanka, consistently failed to catch the ball cleanly and at times, Nepal themselves squandered chances to add to their tally.

Renuka Kumari, who tormented Pakistan’s defence throughout the game, put in an impressive show and almost scored on the 68th minute but her audacious try went straight at Mahapara, who managed to cling to the ball.

On the other end, in a rare Pakistan attack, Seher Zaman drifted past several Nepali defenders before being brought down in the box, but the referee waived away any penalty claims from the Pakistani players.

Meanwhile, coach Lutfi made another change, this time choosing to bring off the extremely poor Abiha Haider for Shayan, who had herself come on as a substitute.

Nonetheless, it was Nepal who continued to ask questions and Kumari curled in into the goal only to see Mahapara make a decent save to keep the score at 2-0. The BUFC custodian endured a torrid ninety minutes, but rectified most of the errors with a good penalty save on 82 minutes, although the shot was weak in the first place.

That seemed to lift the Pakistani side, which tried to get back into the tie with Hajra Khan performing well on the flanks to earn a free-kick. A subsequent freekick from Malika Noor’s beat the Nepali goalkeeper but wasn’t turned in by any Pakistani player on the far post.

Ultimately with a superb display of possession and attacking football, it was Nepal who ran out comfortable 2-0 winners while Pakistan ended their chances of reaching the semi-finals.