Nepal lose to Pakistan 1-0Ali Zafar scores the decisive goal in the 76th minute to give Pakistan a deserved victory and a flying start to their SAFF U-19 Championship campaign.
Hosts Nepal succumbed to a 1-0 defeat against Pakistan in their opening game of the SAFF U-19 Championship 2023 at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu on Thursday.
Ali Zafar scored the decisive goal to give Pakistan a deserved victory and a flying start to their SAFF campaign.
Two-time champions Nepal—winners of the inaugural competition in 2015 and 2017—started as clear favourites but Pakistan were a far better side, troubling Nepal with their relentless attack throughout the 90 minutes.
Nepal dominated the ball possession in the first half but found it had to penetrate a stubborn Pakistani defence.
At the other end, Pakistan continuously posed threats with their venomous attack and could have gone into the second half with a lead had Nepal captain and goalkeeper Jiyarat Shekh not turned hero for the hosts.
Nepal were the first to threaten the post. Samir Tamang found the chance early in the match when he received a low free kick from Kushal Deuba inside the box but ended up shooting wide.
But Pakistan ran the rest of the show.
In the 27th minute, Shah Jahan darted a free kick in the far post but Nepal goalkeeper Shekh stretched high to put the ball away.
Shekh then made a brilliant save to deny Muhammad Adeel Younas from close range in the 33rd minute, an opportunity that followed up a good build-up. Muhammad Haroon Zafar found the rebound near the six yard box but could not capitalise on it.
Nepal were lucky not to have conceded two minutes later when Adeel Younas went one-on-one with Shekh but the forward wasted the opportunity that Haroon Zafar created with a lovely defence-splitting pass.
Shekh rescued Nepal again moments later. Adeel Younas took advantage of a miscommunication between Deuba and Abinash Syangtan to seize possession and charged at the post but Shekh was aware of the incoming danger and made a diving save.
The goalie had to showcase another brilliance to deny Adeel Younas from close range seconds before the break and cover up a sloppy defending from Nepal.
But Zafar broke the deadlock in the 76th minute, launching a 30-yard thunderbolt that finally undid the resistance from Shekh.
Nepal next face the Maldives on September 25. Pakistan play the Maldives on September 23.
India, winners of the 2019 and 2022 editions of the championship, also made a winning start to their SAFF campaign with a 3-0 win over Bangladesh.
First-half goals from Gwgwmsar Goyary, Naoba Meitei Pangambam and a late strike from Arjun Singh Oinam ensured India collect three points and stay on course for a third trophy.