KARACHI: Mohammad Safeer scored a brace on Wednesday to propel Army to an upset 3-2 win over strong SSGC, while Ihsanullah struck a double in PIA’s 5-1 rout of Port Qasim in the 59th National Hockey Championship matches played here at the Hockey Club of Pakistan.
SSGC looked very sloppy in the beginning and were punished in the second minute as Safeer earned an early lead for his side. It became worse for SSGC when five minutes later skipper Mohammad Imran doubled Army’s advantage from a penalty corner.
Salman Akbar was beaten twice all ends up in seven minutes conceding goals which could have been easily stopped. SSGC raised the bar after being 2-0 down, but were kept at bay in the first period. After a dressing down by their management during the break, SSGC came out quickly from their blocks in the second half.
There was more energy into the game as Army were not contended with their two goal advantage. However, Army’s aggression cost them dearly as they were caught stretched in the 42nd minute as Abbas Haider rounded off a superb counter attack to give SSGC a lifeline. Army could have restored their two-goal advantage when Salman Akbar once again lost his concentration but his teammate Usman Rafique saved SSGC blushes, clearing the ball right on goal line.
Army were flirting with danger by playing high up the pitch and not controlling tempo of the match. They finally paid for their mistake when Abbas scored the equaliser nine minutes from time. But Army luckily got the winner in the 66th minute to produce first upset of the championship.
Army manager Major Tariq was delighted with the win and praised the efforts of his young striker Mohammad Safeer. “Safeer was outstanding today and we are happy with this amazing hard-fought win,” Tariq said while talking to ‘The News’. “He is purely our product and from what I can see, the guy has a bright future ahead of him.”
SSGC coach Rana Zaheer admitted that his team did not start the match in a bright manner, which resulted in two early goals against them. Meanwhile, PIA showed impressive team work to give Port Qasim trouble throughout the match despite not playing to their 100 percent potential.
Ihsanullah was given the duties to hammer the penalty corners on goal instead of Kashif Ali and he lived up to expectations, scoring two goals in the space of two minutes to guide PIA to 2-0 lead in 25th minute. Port Qasim’s Owais Khan was simply outstanding from the right flank but he did not have a good team around him. He was the only shining light from his team and played even better than Haseem Khan on the day.
In the second-half, right-half Mohammad Irfan scored the third in the 40th minute after a delightful drill which saw Ihsanullah producing a dummy shot and Irfan hammering the ball in the right corner much to the chagrin of Port Qasim’s defenders. Nohaiz Malik was on the mark for PIA three minutes later but Haseem Khan got one back for Port Qasim in the 47th minute. Skipper Mohammad Zubair scored a goal two minutes from the fulltime to put icing on the cake for PIA. In an early kickoff, PAF won 2-0 against PHF Academy thanks to goals from Zeeshan Dilshad and Amir.