CIKARANG: Pakistan gave themselves a glimmer of hope to qualify for the Asian Games round-of-16 after they finally managed to win a match at this year’s event arriving into the game on the back of two successive defeats.
Skipper Saddam Hussain’s penalty 18 minutes before time proved to be the winner for Pakistan, who came back from a goal down to beat Nepal 2-1 in the Group ‘D’ match at the Patriot Chandrabhaga Stadium.
The win gives Pakistan an outside chance of qualifying for the knockout stage as one of the best four third-placed teams as Vietnam edged past Japan 1-0 to finish as group leaders.
Jose Antonio Nogueira’s men suffered an early setback after an own goal by Shahbaz Younas in the 12th minute gave Nepal the advantage.
Pakistan came back fighting after the break and finally found a way past the Nepal defence with Mohammad Bilal scoring the equaliser in the 54th minute.
Bilal made a high leap to head in a delivery from the deep on the far post after Pakistan won a free-kick.
The goal was Pakistan’s first at the Games as well as after the country’s return to international football after an absence of more than three years.
The Pakistan players’ jubilance showed how significant the goal meant to them, sparking celebrations with Bilal sprinting towards the corner flag and his team-mates chasing him in joy.
Pakistan should have scored in the 67th minute when Saddam’s effort was denied by the post but the captain scored in the 72nd minute to give Pakistan the three points and now wait to know their fate.
Saddam comfortably placed the ball on the left of Nepal goalkeeper Kiran Chemjong, who dived in the opposite direction.
MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT FOR VIETNAM
Nguyen Quang Hai’s third minute strike was enough for Vietnam to defeat Japan at the Wibawa Mukti Stadium.
Vietnam started aggressively and were rewarded when Japan’s Yuta Kamiya mishandled goalkeeper Powell Bbinna Obi’s pass in front of the box.
Nguyen Van Toan pounced on the loose ball and sent it to Quang Hai to open the scoring with his second goal of the tournament.
Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu — who was tasked with preparing his Under-21 squad for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics — and his charges continued to play patiently despite conceding the early goal as they slowly made their way forward but none of their attempts truly challenged Vietnam custodian Bui Tien Dung.
In the second half, Japan held the lion’s share of possession but failed to translate that into an equaliser, while Park Hang-seo’s side was content with their slim advantage and played mostly on the counter-attack.
Ten minutes from the full-time whistle, Japan’s Daizen Maeda found the back of the net but the midfielder was clearly offside, and Vietnam held on to claim all three points to finish as Group ‘D’ winners.
Vietnam will take on one of the third best-placed teams on August 23, while Japan will face the Group ‘E’ winners the following day.
Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2018