ARAD (Bahrain): With 90 minutes on the clock, Pakistan were leading 1-0 against Palestine.
In a dispiriting, disappointing qualifying campaign for next year’s AFC Under-23 Asian Cup, they needed to hold on for a confidence-inspiring win in their final Group ‘D’ game on Tuesday.
Hopes increased that it was going to be Pakistan’s night when goalkeeper Usman Ali pulled off a stunning double save from an indirect free-kick five minutes into stoppage time.
But they were soon dashed. In the 98th minute, Palestine were awarded a penalty. Usman guessed correctly but Khaleid Alnasbrisi’s shot had too much sting.
Pakistan were crestfallen and an unmarked Alnasbrisi delivered the killer blow in the 15th minute of time added on, rising highest to a corner and planting a header well wide of Usman.
The 2-1 loss meant Pakistan ended their campaign without a point after defeats to table-toppers Japan (6-0) and hosts Bahrain (3-1) in their previous matches.
But they will take heart from a performance in which they showed purpose and could’ve won had they not suffered the meltdown in the end.
Pakistan were using the matches as preparation for next month’s 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier first-round against Cambodia and seemed to have learnt from their mistakes in the previous matches, keeping the game goalless in the first half.
Harun Hamid gave Pakistan the lead seven minutes into the second half when he latched on to a loose ball, first showing great chest control and then dribbling into the area before firing a low shot past the goalkeeper.
Pakistan then repelled repeated Palestine forays and seemed to be heading for a win until Alnabrisi’s late brace denied them.