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Thread: Pakistan fight back to hold Maldives 1-1

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    KARACHI: How Zavisa Milosavljevic has turned things around for Pakistan’s football team.
    Prior to their back-to-back tours of Nepal and Maldives, Pakistan’s prospects looked bleak. Lying 189th in the FIFA rankings and coming off a 4-0 hammering at the hands on Singapore in their last international match, the Serbian needed to change things around — and very quickly.
    He’s done exactly that.
    After successive 1-0 victories against Nepal in their two friendly matches, Milosavljevic had predicted Pakistan’s real test would come against the Maldives. And in their first match against the tiny Island nation on Tuesday night, Pakistan showed some of their new-found confidence.
    Maldives looked to be heading to a victory before deep into stoppage time, Yaqoob Ejaz Butt scored to secure a 1-1 draw.
    It was a result that not only made Milosavljevic happy but also pleased the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) hierarchy who were looking for other options if the Serbian coach hadn’t improved Pakistan’s results.
    Still, Milosavljevic’s main task is the upcoming AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in March.
    “The team has shown good performances,” PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told Dawn on Tuesday. “However, we’ll asses Milosavljevic’s performance on how the team fares in the Challenge Cup qualifiers.
    “Friendly matches don’t count for much… it’s the competitive matches we need to get positive results in. The tours have been arranged specifically to help the team prepare for the big matches.”
    Milosavljevic might as well be able to do that.
    Boasted by an exciting crop of young players, most of whom play for national champions Khan Research Laboratoris (KRL), along with a few foreign-based players, Milosavljevic’s Pakistan side is a different team altogether.
    “This team has the passion, the drive and the desire to win,” Pakistan’s assistant coach Shahzad Anwar told Dawn earlier this week. “We’re trying different things in training and we have several different options with our formations.”
    Milosavljevic’s reliance on foreign-based players too has paid off handsomely.
    In the opener against Nepal, Denmark-based striker Hassan Bashir netted the winner and against Maldives, it was another of the Danish contingent who rescued the team.
    Yaqoob, who plays for Danish amateur club Skovshoved IF, showed the resilience the foreign-based players bring to the team. The defender connected superbly to a corner for Pakistan’s equaliser.
    Maldives had dominated the earlier exchanges and took the lead in the 48th minute when Asadhullah Abdullah scored with a bullet header past Pakistan goalkeeper Jaffar Khan.
    Pakistan teams of the past have shown a tendency to let their heads drop after conceding but this time around, they battled back to eventually secure a draw with their final match of the tour to be played on Thursday.
    It was Pakistan’s first draw against the Maldives in the better part of more than two decades while it was also the first time since 1991 the Green-shirts had managed to find the net against their more higher-ranked opponents.
    “We played a very competitive game,” Milosavljevic said at the post-match press-conference. “We performed well, with a lot of motivation and we were aggressive when we needed to be.”
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    good yar

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