Kuwait climbed to the top of Group A and took a giant leap towards a berth in the 2023 SAFF Championships semifinals with a 4-0 win against Pakistan at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Saturday.
With the loss, Pakistan’s chances of making it to the semifinal is all but over after failing to grab a single point in two matches.
Starting on the frontfoot, the Al-Azraq got their first chance in the third minute when Salman Mohammad was fouled at the edge of the Pakistan box by Mamoon Moosa. Harun Hamid took the freekick but could not keep his effort on target.
The breakthrough came in the 10th minute. Mobarak Alfaneeni, who had time and space on the right flank, swung a low cross inside the box. The Pakistan backline was too slow in dealing with the threat, and the ball reached Hassan Alanezi at the back-post. Bringing the ball under control, Alanezi slotted the ball inside the net on the volley.
Seven minutes later, Rui Bento’s men grabbed their second of the match. Pakistan had committed a lot of bodies ahead for a corner but lost possession, which invited a counter-attack from Kuwait. Eid Alrashidi darted down the right touchline with acres of space ahead. Having a look up, he spotted Alfaneeni at the far-post and spread the ball to him. Yousuf Butt ventured ahead to narrow down the angle, but Alfaneeni’s shot was precise as he rattled the top-right corner.
The Pak Shaheens had a chance to pull a goal back in the 20th minute. Muhammad Waheed got at the end of a cross from the right flank from Otis Khan and connected well with his head. Kuwait keeper Bader Bin Saanoun was scrambling as he saw the ball creep past the post for a goal-kick.
It looked like Kuwait would be taking a two-goal lead into half-time, but it grabbed its third in additional time.
It was a howler in defence for Pakistan as Mamoon’s backpass to his keeper was intercepted by Alrashidi. He made his way inside the box and shot at the goal, but Easah Suliman blocked the initial effort. However, the rebound fell to Alfaneeni, who scooped the ball over Butt to grab his brace.
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The second-half did not provide any respite to Shahzad Anwar’s men as Kuwait kept hounding the Pakistan defence with attacking threats.
Pakistan created a rare chance in the 65th minute when Waleed Khan got at the end of a cross from Otis from the left. He slid in to make contact and did manage to get a touch of the ball, guiding it towards goal. However, the effort was weak and straight at Saanoun, who showed good reflexes to make the save.
The Al-Azraq grabbed their fourth in the 69th minute. It was an incredible solo effort by Alrashidi as he ventured inside the Pakistan box after riding a couple of challenges. After a couple of stepovers, he lashed the ball inside the net, capping off a dominant performance by Kuwait.
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