KARACHI: Temperamental fullback Kashif Ali scored a brace to help Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) defeat Army 5-3 in their 59th National Hockey Championship match at the Hockey Club of Pakistan (HCP) here on Friday.
The game started on a grim note as the teams were involved in brawls, but referees intervened to keep the situation under control.
Kashif was centre of almost every controversy as he showed poor discipline trying to impose himself on opposition and referees both.
PIA were playing with a strategy of playing high of the pitch and were caught napping on 9th minute as Kashif had a wild swing to clear the ball and missed it. Army had a glorious opportunity to go ahead with only goalkeeper to beat but it was missed which cost dearly as PIA drew first blood in the next minute thanks to clinical finishing by forward Inayatullah who rounded off a super counter-attacking move.
PIA’s Mohammad Irfan and Shafqat Rasool were causing all sort of problem for opponents due to their tremendous runs but end product was missing.
Similarly, Army’s Mohammad Rizwan and Hassan Arfi were at the heart of every move their team made.
Rizwan made an excellent run on the left flank on 20th minute to open up opponent’s defense, but his through ball was not collected properly. Army then attacked from right wing on 22nd minute, but PIA goalie made a flying save, leading to a penalty corner though.
Army missed two penalty corners in quick succession as PIA broke again on 25th minute but Shafqat’s chip went over the bar. Emotions once again got the better of players in 29th minute and the game had to be stopped for almost a minute as referees tried to calm down players.
PIA were pushing Army in their own half and they got a penalty corner in the 32nd minute which was converted by Kashif through a ferocious drag-flick down the right corner.
Rizwan missed the goal by a whisker in the next minute while PIA’s defender Yasir Aslam made a timely interception from the following attack.
PIA again counter-attacked and youngster Nohaiz Malik scored an exquisite goal a minute before the half-time. After the break, Army came out quickly from the blocks but were lucky to escape a penalty stroke when Mohammad Zubair was dragged wildly to ground. Shockingly, only a penalty corner was given.
On 51st minute, Army attacked from the left and Mohammad Kashif tried a miscued reverse flick and the ball luckily fell to his teammate Rizwan who slotted it home.
PIA were reduced to pieces in a spell of five minutes as two minutes later confusion at the back led to Army’s second, scored by Mohammad Safeer.
On 55th minute, Army were even after Mohammad Imran converted from a penalty corner. It got worst for PIA when on 59th minute fullback Ihsanullah was shown yellow card.
Five minutes from time PIA got a lucky penalty corner and Kashif once again rose to the occasion giving his side an important lead against the run of play.
The victory was sealed by another youngster Adnan Anwar who coolly glided the ball after an assist from Shafqat with a minute from time.
PIA manager Shahid Ali Khan said that his defenders were forcing the game instead of playing smart.
“Our strategy was to keep Army in their half and it worked until we lost our concentration which resulted in three goals for our opponents,” he said.
“I feel they were lucky to get the opening two goals as they were sort of fluke. I am a bit worried as individual mistakes can cost us in important matches against WAPDA, National Bank and SSGC.”
Army coach Major Tariq Ahmed said they lost the match because of lack of experience. “PIA’s attacking three were outstanding and made the difference. But I am hopeful that our team will bounce back,” Tariq stated.
Both teams felt that umpiring was not up to the mark and could have been better.
In other matches, Shakeel Abbasi scored in the last minute to hand SSGC a 2-2 draw against Habib Bank. Navy registered an easy 3-0 win against PHF Academy thanks to a brace from skipper Rashid Mehmood.