KARACHI: Dashing striker Muhammad Rasool scored his third consecutive hat-trick to guide KESC to a 3-0 victory over WAPDA in the semifinal of the KPT National Football Challenge Cup 2012 here at the KPT Stadium in Kharadar on Wednesday, 21 March 2012.
Holders Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) edged out resolute Pakistan Navy 1-0 in the other pre-final. The final is on Friday, 23 March 2012.
The semifinal between the last year’s runners-up KESC and WAPDA turned out to be a showpiece of the event with both sides playing with great pace. But Rasool proved a real tormentor and tore apart WAPDA’s to score his third hat-trick in three consecutive matches, a rare feat in Pakistan’s football history. He is the leading scorer of the tournament with 10 goals.
In 1968, former Pakistan striker Ali Nawaz Baloch scored triple hat-trick in a match against East End Club while playing for Dhaka Mohammaden in the Dhaka League.
In the early stages of the first half, WAPDA could have taken the initiative, but Arif Mehmood’s drive from a close range hit the left pole. Moments later, WAPDA keeper averted a fine rally.
After some time, Arif’s header from a cross from left fullback hit the pole before Jahangir saved KESC from a real blow with a fine save on a heavy drive from Muhammad Ahmad who was later injured after colliding with the KESC keeper and was taken off the ground on a stretcher.
He was replaced by former Pakistan midfielder Zulfiqar Shah who forced Jahangir a minute later to save a dashing shot.
After a goalless first half, KESC got onto the scoresheet in the 46th minute through Muhammad Rasool’s thunderous drive from inside the box. Moments later, Arif’s drive collided with the bar before Jahangir saved a real goal on a close range kick from Zulfiqar Shah.
In the 79th minute, WAPDA had an easy chance to bring an equaliser but Arif Mehmood’s left-footer from inside penalty box went off the target.
KESC doubled their lead in the 86th minute through Rasool before he completed his hat-trick by converting a penalty in the 89th minute.
“Like the other matches, we opted to play on counter-attacks and again we succeeded,” KESC skipper Muhammad Essa said.
WAPDA coach Syed Qasim Raza said it was only bad luck that the team lost. “You know it was not our day as Arif’s four shots hit the poles,” he lamented.
In the first semifinal, Kaleemulalh hit his second goal of the tournament in the 17th minute to gift a close win to KRL over Navy. The sailors looked excellent in the second half, but were reduced to ten men when Asif Bakhsh was sent off by referee Waheed Murad by showing him straight red card in the 76th minute.
Navy were not awarded a penalty for a handball despite their strong protest. “We were hurt by the partial decisions of the referee. He not only denied us a penalty for a hand ball but also showed red card to Asif wrongly,” said Navy coach Khalid Zubair.
KRL coach Tariq Lutfi said that he was not satisfied with the finishing of his players but hoped they would play better in the final.
Today’s fixture: Play-off for the 3rd place: Navy v WAPDA (KPT Stadium, 4:15pm).
Thursday, March 22, 2012 [The News]