2009 SAFF Cup: Nine-Man Sri Lanka Narrowly Beats Pakistan In Opener

The 1995 champions held on for a slim win despite going down to nine men...

Sri Lanka registered a 1-0 win over Pakistan thanks to a first half penalty goal from Chathura Gunaratne in the opening game of the 2009 SAFF Cup at the Bangabandhu National Stadium, Bangladesh on Friday afternoon.

Two Lankan players were shown red cards in the closing stages of the game while Adnan Ahmed failed to convert a late spot kick for Pakistan. 

It took a while for both teams to get going as there were no real openings in the first twenty minutes.

Sri Lanka looked the more ambitious of the two and were rewarded in the twenty fifth minute when they won a penalty after S. Sanjeev was brought down in the box by Pakistan keeper Jaffar Khan.

Midfielder Chathura Gunaratne stepped up to take the spot-kick and successfully converted it to give his side the lead.

That goal brought Pakistan to life as they went in search of the equalizer. They nearly achieved the same ten minutes before the break when striker Safiullah  Khan came close.

The Lankans did enough to go into halftime break with a one goal lead but Pakistan finished the first half stronger.

Pakistan started the second period very well with striker Arif Mehmood looking dangerous. He first turned provider as he setup Adnan Ahmed but the latter failed to find the target.

Then skipper Essa created a good chance for Mehmood but the Sri Lankan defence were well alert to the situation as they cleared away the danger.

George Kottan’s team were dominating possession and so midway through the second half, Sri Lanka coach Sampatha Pereira reverted to a much defensive formation b y taking off striker Jayasuriya and bringing on defensive minded Warakagoda.

Medio Adnan Ahmed was also looking very influential for Pakistan but even he was unable to find that killer final pass.

It was looking like Sri Lanka would hold on to their slim advantage but four minutes from the 90, they suffered a huge blow when key defender Heittiarachchi was sent off for a clumsy foul on Reis Ashraf.

Two minutes later, Pakistan were awarded a penalty and the Lankans were down to nine men when Sanjaya Kumara was shown a red card for deliberately handling the ball inside the box.

But Pakistan failed to take advantage of that as Adnan Ahmed put his penalty wide of the target.

For the remaining minutes of the match, Sri Lanka somehow kept the clean sheet to begin their 2009 SAFF Cup campaign with three points.

Pakistan now must get a good result against hosts Bangladesh on Sunday to avoid elimination from the group stages for the second successive edition.

Goalscorer: Chathura Gunaratne (Sri Lanka)  pen 25’

Amoy Ghoshal