| Indian defender Sameer Naik tries to stop Pakistan’s Sarfraz Rasool from scoring in the SAFF Cup in Dhaka on Friday. (AFP)
Dhaka: India launched their quest for a hattrick of titles in the most uninspiring fashion slumping to a shock 0-1 defeat at the hands of arch-rivals Pakistan in the opening match of the third SAFF Cup meet at Bangabandhu National Stadium on Friday.
Sharfraz Rasool scored the all-important goal five minutes into the second half in front of a packed holiday crowd to seal the fate of a depleted Indian side.
The day’s other league match saw Sri Lanka riding a 41st minute strike by skipper Duddley Steinwall to beat debutants Afghanistan.
The defeat was a major blow for Stephen Constantine’s team as it would now have to negotiate group A opponents Sri Lanka to keep their hopes alive in the competition.
The defeat also exposed how much India will miss the killer instincts of star striker Bhaichung Bhutia as well as the strength of Dipak Mondal and Mahesh Gawli in defence, all out of the meet through injuries.
Last time Pakistan won against India was way back in 1991 during the Colombo SAF Games, when they triumphed by the same scoreline.
The only goal of the match came from a quick counter attack with Wadeer Ahmed sending a nice cross from the left-hand corner of the field. The ball beat a confused Indian custodian Naseem Akhtar and Sharfraz made no mistake in chesting the ball into the net.
“We created a few chances. But that was not enough against Pakistan who battled extremely hard. It was a bad day, but on any other day the score could have been 5-1 in our favour,” Constantine said later.
However, Constantine said that Alvito D’cunha had got a spank in the match and is doubtful against Afghanistan in the next match on Sunday. (PTI)