After two successive defeats, hosts Pakistan finally tasted victory — albeit a consolation one to restore some battered pride.
In their final group match of the SAFF Women’s Championship on Sunday, Pakistan turned on the style in the second half as they scored four times on their way to a 4-1 victory over Bhutan following defeats to Sri Lanka and Nepal.
Malika Noor was the star of the show with the midfielder, who had been assigned a defensive role in Pakistan’s two previous games, scoring once from the penalty spot and playing a part in the other three.
“We played with a defensive approach [against Sri Lanka and Nepal], but that was a part of our strategy,” Pakistan coach Tariq Lutfi said.
“At the start of the tournament, we were optimistic about our chances of at least making the semi-finals but our strikers failed to fire [especially against Sri Lanka] which cost us badly.”
Bhutan’s defeat meant they lost all their three matches of Group ‘B’ with Nepal topping the group with a perfect record after they beat Sri Lanka 3-0 in Sunday’s other match.
Having conceded 11 goals in their two previous outings, Bhutan kept Pakistan at bay in the first half at the Jinnah Stadium.
But the floodgates opened seven minutes into the second half when Sehar Zaman scored and Shahlyla Baloch doubled Pakistan’s advantage in the 66th.
Bhutan, however, pulled one back a minute later through Tshering Yangdon’s strike but Roshanan Ali pounced on a defensive error to restore Pakistan’s two-goal cushion in the 74th.
Malika provided the icing on the cake, scoring from a spot-kick nine minutes from time to register Pakistan’s first win in the regional tournament.
Lutfi was satisfied with Pakistan’s overall performance in the tournament but said that the team needed time and practice.
“I request the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) to hold at least four training sessions comprising 20 days, in a year in order to get good results from this young team in mega events,” he said.
Amu Lama maintained her red-hot scoring streak, scoring a brace as Nepal won Group ‘B’ after beating Sri Lanka in a match which had no bearing on the semi-final places earlier on Sunday.
Having scored four times in their two previous games, Lama scored in the 54th and 85th following Niru Thapa’s 15th-minute opener for the two-time SAFF Championship runners-up.
With defending champions India having already qualified for the last four from Group ‘A’, the final berth will be decided when Maldives take on Bangladesh on Monday.
Today’s fixtures: India v Afghanistan (11:00am); Maldives v Bangladesh (2.30pm).