ANISUDDIN KHAN

KARACHI - Wapda and PIA scored identical 2-1 margin victories over their respective opponents in the semi-finals here Friday at Hockey Club of Pakistan to set up a clash in the final of the 59th National Hockey Championship on Saturday.

Playing in the first semi-final, PIA defeated a strong Pakistan Army 2-1 after leading 1-0 at half time. Later in the second semi-final, Wapda suppressed a gritty Sui Southern Gas 2-1 with all the three goals coming in the first session.

PIA faced stiff resistance from Army which made the opponents fought for every move and attack but PIA succeeded in breaking the Maginot line in the 14th minute to give an opportunity to M Irfan to give moral boosting lead for the airlines. Army really fought doggedly to neutralise the advantage won by the rivals. They made a number of inroads in opponent’s areas but could no make impact on the score sheet. Halfway through the seventy minutes match, Army trailed 1-0.

But shortly after resumption the soldiers found the elusive equalizer in the 46th minute with M Rizwan scoring through PC. With scores level the two teams went all out for the winning goal.

They knew that conceding a late goal would heralds sure defeat. And that exactly what happened in the 59th minute with PIA’s Shafqat Rasool getting the goal. There were 11 minuets left in the match and those were enough to clinch the second equalizer but Pakistan Army failed to get it and lost.

Wapda was expected to dominate and record easy win against SSGC in the second semi-final but surprisingly it was closely contested and it was Sui Southern which took the lad in 16th minute when Shabbir Ahmed Khan scored.

Had the SSGC retained that advantage for some time they may have upset the opponents or extended them but it not happen and Wapda within seconds scored the equalizer when M Imran scored.

In the 20th minute, Aleem Bilal converted a PC which proved decisive. Wapda crossed the half with 2-1 advantage and retained that till thee final hotter.

Today (Saturday), Army will face SSGC for third and fourth position and Wapda and PIA face each other for the final honours of the 10-team championship.