KARACHI: Goalkeeper Ishaq Ahmad saved two penalties to guide Navy to a 4-3 victory over Army in penalty shootout following a goalless draw after extended time in a thrilling quarter-final of the National Football Challenge Cup here at the KPT Stadium on Sunday.
In another quarter-final at the same venue, WAPDA, who are one of the hot favourites, came from behind to defeat Pak PWD 3-2 to move into the semifinals.
Following a goalless draw after extra time, as expected, Navy proved themselves to be a better side than Army on penalties. Reserved veteran goalkeeper Ishaq Ahmad, who was sent just four minutes before the end of the extra time in place of right-out Rizwan in order to provide him an opportunity of a warm-up for the penalty shootout, splendidly saved two penalties from Army’s Muhammad Shabbir and acting captain and goalkeeper Mehmood Ahmad to gift sailors a sensational victory.
Imran Hussain, Shabbir Hussain and Akhtar converted their penalties for Army, while Muhammad Ramzan, skipper Nomi Martin Gill, Shahid Muneer and Abdul Haq scored on the four penalties that Navy took.
“We gave chance to Ishaq in place of a regular keeper Muhammad Shahzad in penalty shootout because we knew that he would do a good job and he did that by saving two penalties with ease,” jubilant Navy coach Khalid Zubair told ‘The News’.
Army’s manager Major Shafqat was disappointed with the outcome. “Our team always loses on penalties and we normally try to decide the game in regulation time,” Shafqat said. “We were also missing our main goalkeeper Jaffar Khan due to injury which harmed us a lot,” the official said.
Earlier, Army took the field without their skipper and goalkeeper Jaffar Khan whose inner lip was hurt in a league game the other day and striker Muhammad Akram, who had been suspended for red card. Army played in their traditional rough style, which prevented Navy from playing technically.
After half an hour, Army could have taken the initiative, but Rehman Ali’s drive from a narrow angle just missed the far post. After the breather, Army created another good opportunity, but Navy’s keeper Muhammad Shahzad did a fine job under the cage.
It was 0-0 at the end of the regulation time. In the first half of the extra 30 minutes, Navy squandered two easy chances when Asif Bakhsh’s close-range drive went off in the sixth minute before Martin Gill failed to capitalise on a fine cross moments later. In the 10th minute, keeper Muhammad Shehzad saved Navy from a real blow when he cleared a header from Muhammad Mufeed in an acrobatic fashion. The second half proved dull with Navy trying to take the game into the penalties.
The WAPDA-Pak PWD quarter-final was also interesting with both sides offering tough resistance. Pak PWD went ahead through Muhammad Hussain’s header in the 44th minute. But WAPDA bounced back through captain Arif Mehmood in the 49th minute. Six minutes later, WAPDA took 2-1 lead through Manzoor before Arif Mehmood struck his second of the match and fourth of the tournament in the 85th minute to put his team 3-1 ahead.
However, Pak PWD reduced the deficit to 2-3 when Muhammad Jan landed one in the injury time. “It was a too hot today but the boys played well. We are optimistic that we will perform much better in the semifinal,” WAPDA’s skipper Arif Mehmood said.
Today’s fixtures: Quarter-finals: KESC v National Youth A (KPT Stadium, 1:00pm), KRL v KPT (KPT Stadium, 3:45pm).
Monday, March 19, 2012 [The News]