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Safe Women’s Football Championship 2010

Hosts humbled
Semifinal line-ups completed

Times Sports Desk - December 20th, 2010

The enthusiasm among local people about Saturday‚Äôs SAFF Women’s Football Championship matches at the Cox’s Bazaar Stadium was at low ebb. After a couple of full house crowds, attendance was minimal in the first match between Afghanistan and Maldives which improved to something like a thousand for the second match between Nepal and Pakistan.

The apparent indifference could only be attributed to the hosts’ demoralising defeat at the hands of India the previous day.

On Friday, and in front of a brimming crowd, Bangladesh suffered a 6-0 reverse against India, courtesy of a Kamala Devi hattrick, a brace from tournament’s top-scorer Sasmita Mallik and another from captain Tababi Devi. All the goals were scored in the first-half as the second saw hosts defend more resolutely while the leaders were happy to sit back on their formidable lead. In the other match Sri Lanka and Bhutan shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw.

In the first semifinal on Monday, favourites India will meet archrivals Pakistan while hosts Bangladesh will take on strong Nepal in the second semifinal on Tuesday.

Nepal’s 12-0 mauling of Pakistan was powered by a third consecutive hattrick from striker Anu Lama, who took her tally to 10 goals in the tournament so far and looks like a real contender for the player-of-the-tournament award. After a 3-0 lead in the first-half, Nepal turned the game into virtually a shooting practice, breaching the Pakistan goal every now and then. The defence was in tatters, while goalkeeper Mahapara’s howlers did not make things any easier for them. Things got so desperate for the Pakistanis that 21-year-old defender Asmaa Usman burst into tears after conceding an own goal. Even words of sympathy from the captain failed to console her as she kept weeping to the final whistle and to the dressing room.

Captain Sana Mahmood, while trying to put on a brave face, said it was down to inexperience that they lost so heavily.

In the other match on Saturday, already out-of-the-tournament sides Afghanistan and Maldives played out a 2-2 draw.

Nepal’s coach Dhurba Bahadur said that Pakistan were a very weak side and now they expected a hard competition against Bangladesh in the semifinals.

Away from the game, there were couple of nice gestures on the field, such as the Pakistan players signing autographs on the shirts of ball-boys and ball-girls or that of Afghan players giving away their wristbands. Aamra Networks, the internet service provider of the tournament, came up with a gesture of their own giving away laptops to the eight best players from eight teams.