A first half free-kick from the Pakistan captain Kaleem Ullah followed by a late second strike off a break from Saddam Hussain ensured a 2-0 win for the away side as the Indian U-23 side were well outplayed in this friendly encounter.
India were forced to replace Robin Singh with Haokip Thonkpsiem upfront, after the Bengaluru FC forward was suspended for this friendly (sent off in game 1). Also, No.7 Milan Singh replaced Pronoy Halder in the midfield as coach Wim Koevermans looked to test the depth of the Indian squad.
First half: India keep possession while Pakistan look to counter
Unlike the first encounter between the two sides, India started off on the front foot as captain Sunil Chhetri almost scored with a thunderous strike inside 15 minutes of the first half. While, the home side looked more comfortable on the ball, Pakistan looked to counter with pace on the wings to a good effect.
For India, Lalrindka Ralte was again instrumental in producing the best moments of the first half as his incisive passing to find Chhetri on more than one occasion troubled the central defensive pair of the away side.
36 minutes into the first half, Haokip's tame effort was comfortably saved by goalkeeper Muzammil Hussain, and that turned to be India's best chance to open the scoring in the game.
Just as it looked no team would be able to break the deadlock in the first half, Pakistan captain Kaleem Ullah scored a sensational free-kick to stun the home crowd.
The Indians made a couple changes at the half-time as they looked to bounce back in the game. However, substituting Ralte with Siam Hangal came as surprise considering the attacking midfielder was responsible for created the key chances in the game. Also, another senior player Francis Fernandes was replaced by Seiminlen Dongal as the coach looked to induce more pace in the midfield area.
Second half: Pakistan expose India’s defensive frailties
While India were supposed to chase the game in the second half, the side put little effort to keep the ball on the pitch and play some football. The defensive line panicked on more than one instance as the coach looked on dejected from the touchline.
Tempers flared late in the second half as Saddam Hussain was booked for kicking the ball away after a refereeing decision went against the visiting side. Even one of the calmest players on the field, Sunil Chhetri looked to have lost his composure as the high intensity of the game was getting to the players.
The only notable attempt from the home side came when Chhetri squandered a free-kick attempt from an identical position on the pitch that allowed his opposite number to score in the first half.
Credit to the Pakistan side for maintaining their dominance in the midfield throughout the game that almost resulted in another goal in the final few minutes. Hussain failed to bury a one-on-one chance as the goalkeeper made a good save.
The friendly series ended one win apiece with India winning the first game 1-0. However, the series left a lot of unanswered questions for the home side going into the 2014 Asian Games.Published 20 Aug 2014, 17:33 IST