Pakistan thrashed Bhutan 7-0 in their last match of Group B in the Bangabandhu SAFF Championship at the Bangabandhu National Stadium on Tuesday but this win was not enough for them to book a semifinal spot as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka made it to the last four after the hosts’ 2-1 win in the latter group match.
It was the second highest margin of victory in the SAFF Championship history after Maldives’ 9-1 win over Afghanistan in 2008.
Forward Arif Mehmood registered the second hat-trick of the eight-nation meet while skipper Mohammed Essa netted a brace for the Pakistani team who failed to score in their previous two matches.
Pakistan completed their group fixtures with four points while last year’s semfinalists Bhutan’s misery was ended after losing all three matches conceding 17 goals.
Buoyed by a five-pack UK-based footballers, Pakistan’s attacking instincts paid off in the 21st minute when skipper Mohammed Essa opened the floodgate after Mahmood Ali worked down the left flank and curved a neat cutback for Essa to place in the far post from the six-yard box.
Bhutan hardly touched the ball when they conceded the second. Attacking midfielder Reis Ashraf utilised the hesitation between two Bhutanese defenders and beat Bhutanese custodian Tenzin with a well judged grounder.
Bhutan had no clue what was going wrong as wily Pakistan forward Arif Mehmood took the tally to three in the 27th minute. Breaking through the midfield with a Khuda Baksh long ball, Arif drilled a low shot past onrushing Tenzin.
Agile Arif Mehmood scored his second in the 35th minute when Tenzin hesitated to grip a common ball from the left flank and Arif toe-poked to slot the fourth goal of his team.
Bhutan initiated a counter attack in the 40th minute and Sonam Tenzin, set by Kinley Dorji’s pass, found Pakistan goalie Jaffer Khan alone under the woodwork but shot straight to his feet from the middle of the box.
England-based defender Shabir Khan included his name in the scorers list in the penultimate minute of the first half with a diagonal grounder into the far post of Tenzin.
Bhutan inserted Tshering Dhendup substituting Tenzin in the second half but he also looked shaky and within minutes after the resumption, handled a backpass to concede a free-kick near the penalty spot. Mohammad Essa toe-poked the ball through the defensive wall to score the sixth in the 53rd minute.
Arif Mehmood completed his treble in the 67th minute with a precise placing shot into the far corner off a Mohammad Shahid cross that found him unmarked in the middle of the box.