KARACHI: Pakistan’s three-pronged attack fired at last but it was too little too late.
Kaleemullah and Hassan Bashir scored a goal apiece as 10-man Pakistan ended their unsuccessful AFC Challenge Cup qualification campaign with a 2-0 victory over Macau at the Dolen Omurzakov Stadium in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek on Thursday.
Hosts Kyrgyzstan qualified for the Challenge Cup finals, scheduled to be held next year in the Maldives, by virtue of a 1-0 win over Tajikistan which meant they finished top of Group ‘B’ whilst ending the hopes of their Central Asian rivals.
Tajikistan could’ve qualified as two best second-placed teams in the five qualifying groups but despite collecting six points they are behind Bangladesh and India, who head that mini league, on goal difference.
Kyrgyzstan join Myanmar, Afghanistan and Palestine in the Challenge Cup as Group winners with Group ‘E’, featuring the Philippines, Turkmenistan and Cambodia, to kick off from March 22.
Pakistan and Macau had nothing but to pride themselves on playing in their final Group ‘B’ encounter and it seemed the Green-shirts’ campaign would end in the worst possible way when defender Kamran Khan was given his marching orders in the 40th minute.
That only served to fire up Pakistan who took the lead four minutes later through Denmark-based striker Hassan Bashir who scored from the penalty spot.
Kaleemullah, who scores goals for fun for Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in the Pakistan Premier Football League but flatters to deceive in the national team colours, sealed victory for Pakistan with his first international goal in the 70th.
The result saw Pakistan salvage some much-needed confidence following 1-0 defeats to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in their opening two games and might as well serve to ease the pressure on their embattled Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic.
In the other match, David Tetteh was yet again the hero for Kyrgyzstan as he scored in the 41st minute against Tajikistan. The Ghana-born attacker had already scored the decisive goals for the hosts in their 1-0 wins over Macau and Pakistan.