LAHORE - Pakistani players played superb football to register an impressive 2-0 triumph over arch-rivals India in the first football series between the two neighbouring countries played in Indian city Bangalore.
Though India won the first match of the series on Sunday 1-0 yet the green shirts bounced back in the second match and not only won it but also clinched the series on better goal average.
The PFF official told this scribe here on Wednesday that Pakistan team inflicted 2-0 win on arch-rivals India in Bangalore, with a sublime free-kick from captain Kaleemullah and a well-taken goal by Saddam Hussain. Pakistani coach M Al-Shamlan’s boys dominated proceedings in the first half but were dented with injuries to Faisal Iqbal and Bilawalur Rehman, both of whom made way for Mohsin Ali and Sher Baloch.
It was India who came close to open the scoring when a dipping long-range effort by skipper Sunil Chhetri was palmed away by Pakistan's goalkeeper Muzamil Husain. Chhetri set up debutant Haokip Thonhkosiem to score in the 37th minute, only to see his attempt saved by Husain. Francis Fernandes then squandered a golden opportunity to score off the rebound. On the other end, Kaleemullah had the chance to take the lead but his effort went in vain. He started to get into the game more and launched a surprise shot cum cross from the wing that Indian goalkeeper Amrinder Singh did well to judge.
Sunil Chhetri’s foul provided a free-kick just outside the box on 37th minute and captain Kaleemullah was on hand to fire one into the top corner and take a stunning 1-0 lead. Pakistan continued to press forward but India matched their efforts for most of the remaining minutes, as the two sides headed to the half-time break.
After the breather, Pakistan were again threatened with injuries as M Ahmed and Muzammil both took tumbles and had to receive treatment. With increasing minutes, yellow cards were splashed out for M Riaz first and later for Sher Baloch.
India tried their best to equalize but failed. In 81st minute, Saddam attacked along with Kaleem but saved by Indian goalkeeper Amrinder. Saddam then managed a suspiring goal and help Pakistan register victory. The green shirts hugged and shook hands on the final whistle before the Pakistani team took a victory lap, waving their national flag.
Talking exclusively to Nawa-i-Waqt Group, captain Kaleem dedicated the victory to the entire nation and said it was a team effort which led the team to series win. “Playing in India and waving green flag after beating them at their home ground has become the most remarkable moment of my life.”
He said that coach Shamlan was satisfied with the team’s performance even after losing the first match 1-0. “We entered the ground with complete plan and strategy and not only played out with hearts but also succeeded in inflicting 2-0 triumph over India in the second match.”
“We are thankful to the PFF and its president Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat who provided us every facility to prepare well against the arch-rivals and if they continue treating us well and arranging more international tours for us, the time is not far when Pakistan team will start producing results at higher level and also improve its FIFA world rankings,” he added.
Kaleem also expressed his gratitude to the PFF president for announcing Rs 5 million cash award for entire team and assured that his boys would were now eager to perform well against Bahrain
The teams are next set to compete in the Asian Games starting in South Korea next month. Pakistan is 164th in the FIFA’s world rankings while India is 150th.
PFF president Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, who watched the match here at the PFF secretariat, has congratulated the whole Pakistani nation at this historic moment and announced a cash reward of Rs 5 million for the national football team for their outstanding performance.
PFF secretary Col (r) Ahmad Yar Khan Lodhi also felicitated the entire nation over green shirts’ fabulous victory over the arch-rivals and hoped this series win would boost the players’ morale and help them play well in the Asian Games. Pakistan team will leave for Bahrain from India today (Thursday) to play three friendly matches with top A level clubs/Olympic team of Bahrain on August 25, 27, 29 and will be back to Pakistan on August 31.