KARACHI: It took a long time coming, but it finally arrived on Wednesday.
Denmark-based marksman Hassan Bashir scored his first international goal a minute into injury-time as Pakistan defeated Nepal 1-0 in Kathmandu for their first victory in a competitive match in almost two years.
It seemed Pakistan’s long wait for a win would continue with the game heading towards a goalless draw at the Dasharath Rangasala Stadium before Hassan reacted quickest after Kamran Khan had struck the post to slot in the rebound and stun a capacity crowd which had gathered in the Nepalese capital.
“It is a fantastic feeling to score my first international goal,” Hassan, who plays for Danish second division side Nordvest, told Dawn from Kathmandu.
“To play for the national team is always a big honour and I’ve waited for this opportunity for a long time and I hope to fulfill the expectations put on me in the future.
“I’m not in my best form as there is the winter-break in Denmark but I’ve been working hard in training and I got my reward.”
Pakistan’s last victory was a 2-0 defeat of Chinese Taipei in March 2011 and their latest victory was a boost for Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic who saw his side suffer a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Singapore in their last international outing.
He was, however, not overly happy with his team’s performance.
“The team is in a preparatory phase,” he said in a post-match news conference aired by several websites. “I’m not happy with the performance as Nepal played a better game in midfield and we need to learn how to control games.”
For Nepal’s new Polish coach Jack Stefanowski, it wasn’t the ideal start but he was satisfied with his team’s performance.
“We dominated Pakistan and had more goal-scoring chances but unfortunately we couldn’t convert them,” he said. “We’ll hope to correct that in the next match [against Pakistan on Saturday].”
Earlier, Nepal dominated the first-half at a rain-lashed Dasharat Stadium with good inter-play in midfield but they consistently failed to find the killer ball past Pakistan’s defence which was superbly marshaled by Samar Ishaq.
Pakistan, who played with Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) hotshot Kaleemullah and Hassan upfront, relied on the counter-attack with clear-cut chances few and far between.
The best chance of the first-half fell to Nepal’s Bhola Saliwal who missed with the goal at his mercy before Pakistan’s Yasir Afridi was given the first caution of the game after hauling him down.
The rest of the first period saw both teams battling for ball possession after the rains had rendered the stadium muddy and it resulted in a number of crunching tackles being made which saw Yasir and then Nepal’s Rejendra Rawal needing medical attention.
“We aren’t used to playing in such conditions,” Pakistan’s assistant coach Shahzad Anwar told Dawn after the match. “Nepal were technically stronger and they had the support of a vociferous home crowd.
“We made some tactical changes in the second-half and it paid off.”
Pakistan started the second-half with great endeavor and forced the first free-kick which was blazed wide by Samar in the 48th.
The two sides continued to battle for the ball in midfield before Nepal fashioned their best chance in the 75th which was headed narrowly wide by Amar Dangol after he was found unmarked in the box by Bijay Dhimal’s superb in-swinging cross.
Yasir then saw an acrobatic effort sail wide in the 87th before Hassan, who had seen little of the ball by that time, showed his predatory instincts to spark wild celebrations in the Pakistan dugout.