KATHMANDU: After a gutsy performance in their opening match against India, Pakistan failed to rise to the challenge against Bangladesh in their second Group ‘A’ match at the SAFF Women’s Championship on Saturday.

This was a humbling defeat, the 6-0 scoreline laying bare that the Pakistan women’s team has a lot of catching up to do against the region’s top teams after being international pariahs for eight years.

An institutional crisis in the Pakistan Football Federation has impacted women’s football in the country and the national team made their first international appearance since 2014 against India on Wednesday where they put up a brave defensive performance, only losing 3-0.

That result had raised expectations that Pakistan would do better against Bangladesh, who have never won the tournament in contrast to India who have been crowned champions in all five editions.

Pakistan did make a bright start — Zulfia Nazir embarking on a solo run in the very first minute only to see her effort foiled by Bangladesh goalkeeper Rupma Chakma — but things quickly went downhill from therein.

Bangladesh skipper and ace striker Sabina Khatun slammed a hat-trick to secure their second straight win and Pakistan’s elimination from the tournament was confirmed when India crushed the Maldives 9-0 in the group’s other match on Saturday.

With their victories, India and Bangladesh secured their berths in the semi-finals and will clash for top spot on Tuesday, when Pakistan face Maldives looking to end their campaign with a positive result.

Bangladesh sprang into action after Zulfia’s early effort and took the lead in the third minute when Monika Chakma with a powerful shot after put through by Sabina from the right at the Dasarath Rangasala Stadium.

Bangladesh exerted their dominance and were rewarded with their second in the 28th when Maria Manda provided a pass to Sabina and the captain gave the ball to Sirat Jahan Swapna who made no mistake with a perfectly-placed shot.

Sabina scored her first right after the half-hour mark, pouncing on a rebound after Monika’s initial shot was parried. The veteran striker, who is Bangladesh’s all-time leading scorer in international football, male or female, with 31 goals in 44 appe­arances, doubled her tally four minutes later smashing home from close range following a cutback from Sanjida Akhter.

Bangladesh continued the onslaught in the second half with Sabina completing her hat-rick with a brilliant guiding header on a cross from Monika 13 minutes after the restart.

Even though Sabina was taken off in the 72nd minute, Bangladesh were not done. The last and arguably the best goal of the game came in the 77th minute when super-sub Rituporna Chakma, turned on her heels at the edge of the box and unleashed a powerful left-footed attempt that sailed into the top left corner of the Pakistan net.

India then put Pakistan out of semi-final contention when Anju Tamang scored four goals in their rout of the Maldives.

Tamang gave India a 24th-minute lead with a fierce effort before Priyangka Devi doubled their advantage in the 42nd after a corner wasn’t cleared.

Tamang got her second, tapping in a rebound, near the end of the half before Grace Dangmei scored early in the second period.

Soumya Guguloth made it 5-0 in the 55th and India added another four goals in the final six minutes — Tamang scoring twice, Dangmei getting a second and Kashmina also getting on the scoresheet.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2022

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