LAHORE - Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) defeated National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) 1-0 in a nerve-wrecking first semifinal while Pakistan Wapda beat Army with same margin 1-0 in the second semifinal of the 62nd National Hockey Championship at the Hockey Club of Pakistan (HCP) Stadium on Saturday.
The final of the prestigious event will be played between PIA and Wapda on Sunday at 3 pm. Federal Minister for State and Frontier Regions Lt Gen (R) Abdul Qadir Baloch will grace the occasion as chief guest.
The first semifinal was a clash of titans which witnessed some heated exchanges between the players of the two teams. At one moment, the skirmish between them turned violent but timely intervention of the tournament officials calmed the situation. Led by M Irfan, the PIA players put every ounce of their energy, skill and experience into the big win. Irfan tackled the bankers’ forwards beautifully in the circle. Particularly, Amir Shehzad, Shafqat Rasool and Abu Bakr played brilliantly. Amir and Shafqat were instrumental in many of PIA attacks. Both played a vital role in their team’s first goal. Experienced Ehsalullah also showed his brilliance in defense.
PIA relied on scoops since the beginning of the match and succeeded in their strategy. They took advantage of the bankers’ easy approach in the last seconds of the first quart. Amir grabbed the opportunity whose long scoop collected by Shaqat near the D – Shafqat passed it to Rana Sohail in the circle who neatly deflected it passed the goal post. They made some other interesting moves also but their hits were saved by the Mazhar Abbas, goal keeper of NBP. In the last quart Amir took the ball from his area and passed it to Shafqat who earned a penalty corner for PIA but the third umpire disallowed it.
After taking lead, the airliners exerted pressure on the bankers which turned the semifinal into a very exciting encounter between top teams of the country. For PIA, it turned out to be a do-and-die issue. The spectators, however, enjoyed good hockey.
The bankers changed their strategy and relied on scoops in the third and fourth quart. Their forwards made some good moves but lacked in finishing. In the 43rd minute, Bilal Qadir and and Dilber Hassan launched an attack but Atiq Arshed, in the circle, failed to finish the pass neatly. In the fourth quart, veteran Akhtar Ali and Ammad Shakeel passed and dribbled beautifully to earn two back to back penalty corners but the Bankers failed to capitalize. PIA’s Abu Bakr dashed speedily to stop one penalty corner. Rana Sajid and Waqas Butt supervised the match.
Wapda struggled very hard to beat Army in the second semifinal. After playing two quite quarts, both teams demonstrated aggression in their moves which amused the spectators. However, they wasted some fair chances to score. From Army, M Zeeshan missed a goal on a cross from Ghanzanfar Ali in the 31st minute. Rizwan’s long scoop to Habib-ur-Rahman earned a penalty corner which was wasted. Army also failed to convert a penalty corner in the 58th minute. Wapda’s lone goal was scored by celebrated penalty corner specialist in the 52nd minute, courtesy to approval of a referral from the third umpire. Atif Malik and Hamza were the field umpires. NBP will take Army for third position at 12pm while PIA will clash against Wapda in the final at 3pm.