Atiqullah guides NBP to NFCC final

KARACHI: Atiqullah hit the lone goal to put National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) in the final as they defeated WAPDA 1-0 in the first semi-final of the National Football Challenge Cup at the Dring Stadium in Bahawalpur on Friday.

Following incisive rallies experienced midfielder Atiqullah hit the winner in the 23rd minute when he lobbed a setter from international midfielder Farooq Shah over the keeper effortlessly.

National Bank, who had ousted the four-time winners Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) 4-3 on penalties in the quarter-final, played with great pace throughout.

At half time National Bank were leading 1-0.

After the breather WAPDA sent in their experienced striker Arif Mehmood in place of Abdul Razzaq. In the 63rd minute National Bank were awarded a penalty but their skipper Abdul Aziz failed to convert it, leaving his side utterly disappointed. At this stage, WAPDA’s defender Arif Hussain was sent off for double booking that gave an opportunity to the bankers to pounce on their rivals but they failed to capitalise on most of the opportunities.

Ten minutes from time WAPDA had come close to bringing an equaliser but Arif Mehmood, who had only the keeper to beat, missed the target.

Just before the final whistle National Bank could have doubled their lead but Mohammad Asif wasted an open opportunity when his drive went wide.

“Our team played an excellent game,” National Bank’s assistant coach Zahid Taj told ‘The News’.

“We missed several chances, including a penalty, but all credit goes to the players who maintained their lead,” said Zahid.

WAPDA coach Syed Qasim Raza said that he was not only missing his key defender Akram Masih due to suspension, but Arif Hussain’s sending off in the second half was also a big blow. “Arif was wrongly sent off by the referee who was not able to keep control on the game,” Qasim said.

“We fielded Arif Mehmood in the second half but he also missed a couple of easy chances,” said Qasim.

The other semi-final was scheduled between Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) and Pakistan Air Force (PAF) last night.

The play-off for the third place will be held at 8:30pm on Saturday (today).

The final will be conducted on Sunday night.

from: The News