By Shrikant Shankar
Bharat Khawas scored in the 37th minute to give Nepal the lead before a Samar Ishaq penalty, early in the second half levelled the scores. Pakistan were unable to get the all-important second goal as the match ended with the scores unchanged.
The draw at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi means Nepal qualify from Group B and are the first team to enter the semifinals of the competition. Pakistan's elimination from the tournament was confirmed after the Maldives beat Bangladesh 3-1 in a match played later in the day.
From the kick-off, both teams started cautiously and appeared content to sit back and wait for the other to make a defensive mistake.
In the 12th minute, Nepal captain Sagar Thapa sent a free kick from inside his own half towards Pakistan's penalty box, where Santhosh Shahu Khala volleyed it directly towards the keeper, who saved it easily.
Some early yellow cards were dished out as Pakistan's Samar Ishaq and Jumanu Rai of Nepal got booked for pushing each other. Then in the 16th minute, there were appeals for a penalty as Thapa tackled Pakistan's Jadeed Khan Pathan in the penalty box only for the referee to wave play on.
Then Nepal got a free kick 35 yards out and Sagar Thapa, who scored a long range free kick against Bangladesh, tried the same but Jafar Khan was alert and plucked the ball out of the air.
Nepal then took the lead in the 37th minute as Raju Tamang took a corner from the right. Bharat Khawas, who was stationed at the far post, scissor kicked the ball into the roof of the net from six yards.
Nepal went into the interval with their 1-0 lead intact.
In the second half, Pakistan made the change with Faisal Iqbal coming in for Jadeed and they were rewarded with an equaliser just four minutes into the half. Nepal's Sandip Rai fouled Kaleem Khan in the penalty box and Samar Ishaq sent the resulting spot-kick to beyond the keeper.
In the 60th minute there was a clash of heads as Nepal's Rabin Shrestha collided with Muhammed Rizwan Asif. Play had to be stopped for five minutes and Pakistan's Manzaoor Ahmed came in for the injured Rizwan Asif, who had dislocated his right shoulder. Shrestha got a yellow card for his troubles as he got substituted for Bikash Singh Chhetri.
More substitutions were made by both teams but the scores were deadlocked at one-a-piece. Then Nepal's Sandip Rai smashed a free-kick against the left-hand post with Jafar Khan rooted to the spot.
Six minutes of added time were awarded, but Nepal managed to hold on to the draw as the referee blew the whistle for full time.
Nepal coach Graham Roberts was obviously delighted that the team qualified for the semifinals.
"We are in the semifinals and that was our aim at the beginning of the tournament," he said.
"Now we have three days to recover before our next match."
Pakistan coach Zavisa Milosavljevic said: "Our boys came with very less practice, but still have performed well. We have to play more international friendlies to improve the quality of football."
He also praised the Nepal team saying, "Nepal are very good from defence to attack and they played well."
PAKISTAN: Jafar Khan, Muhammed Rizwan Asif (Manzaoor Ahmed, 65th), Muhammed Ahmed, Kaleem Ullah, Saddam Hussai, Samar Ishaq, Atif Bashir Qureshi, Adnan Farooq Ahmed (Muhammad Adil, 80th), Jadeed Khan Pathan (Faisal Iqbal, 46th), Hasnain Abbas, Kamran Khan.
NEPAL: Kiran Kumar Limbu, Rabin Shrestha (Bikash Singh Chhetri, 67th), Biraj Maharjan, Bijay Garung (Bhola Nath Silwal, 78th), Santhosh Shahu Khala, Jumanu Rai (Anil Gurung, 91st), Sandip Rai, Raju Tamang, Sagar Thapa, Bharat Khawas, Rohit Chand.
Referee: Nagor Aamir (Malaysia)