K-Electric denied yet again as PAF life Challenge Cup (DAWN)

KARACHI: Arif Nawaz and Mohammad Sher scored stunning extra-time goals as Pakistan Air Force (PAF) condemned KElectric to their fourth successive NBP Challenge Cup final loss with a 3-1 victory for their first major honours on Saturday.

A bizarre goal by Nigerian striker Oludeyi Abayomi Sunday had given K-Electric a first-half lead before Mohammad Mujahid`s second-half header took the match, which started 18minutes late than its scheduled time, into extra-time at the KPT Stadium.

But Shahzad Anwar`s side found an extra gear in the 30 minutes of additional time with substitute Ahmed Akber Khan making the difference as he laid two superb goals for his team-mates.

`The coach sent me to make a difference and Pm glad I was able to do that,` Australia-based Ahmed, who plays for third-division club Macarthur Rams there, told Dawn after the match.

`In the first goal, I knew Arifwas there in an attacking area and for the second I saw Sher running for the pass and he finished beautifully.

Meanwhile, Sunday named player of the tournament lamented his side`s spectacular collapse in the second-half.

`The defence just fell apart after the first half,` Sunday, who will leave for Nigeria on Sunday, told Dawn after the match. `We just didn`t know how to clear the ball and we invited pressure on ourselves. PAF exploited that. In football, it`s the slightest of margins that count.Sunday was signed by KElectric to help them win the Challenge Cup after they had finished second to Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) for a third year in succession.

And the Nigerian put KRL ahead in injury-time of a cagey first-half when Mohammad Riaz chased down PAF goalkeeper Ghazanfar Yaseen`s clearance.

The ball bounced off Riaz`s back and was looking to be heading out but it came back in on thebounce and with the Ghazanfar and the PAF backline having lost their attention, Sunday was on hand to poke the ball in from close range.

`It was one of the weirdest goals Pye seen in my life,` PAF coach Shahzad Anwar told Dawn after the match.

`My players struggled in the first-half as many of them have never played in a final at this level but we knew if we could press KElectric, we would be able to equalise.

Shahzad`s side was lucky to head into half-time just a goaldown after a 35-yard free-kick by K-Electric captain Mohammad Essa rattled the cross-bar with Ghazanfar well-beaten half hour into the match.

But K-Electric players seemed to lose their momentum in the second-half and were taken apart by a PAF side which constantly pressed and harried them.

`I fail to understand what happened to the team in the secondhalf,` K-Electric`s Sports Head Zabe Khan, visibly deflated after his side`s fourth consecutive loss in the cup final, told Dawn. `Wejust couldn`t get the ball off them and the players got a bit nervous.

Nerves seem to get the better of K-Electric players as a melee inside the box gave PAF playmaker Mansoor Khan a free header but he put it wide.

Mansoor, a Pakistan international midfielder, slowly began to exert his presence on the game and could`ve equalised just past the hour mark when his curling left-footed volley came off the inside of the post.

But the equaliser came 11 minutes later.

Mujahid had been threatening for PAF since the start of the second-half and he got his head to a cross from the right to score with a looping header that went across the goal and K-Electric goalkeeper Ghulam Nabi could`ve done better.

The game opened up after Mujahid`s strike and PAF searched for the winner with Mansoor again going close but Nabi gathered the ball after a sling-shot from the edge of the box.

Sunday could`ve snatched victory for K-Electric with the last minute of regulation time when a deflection fell to him inside the box but he shot straight at Ghazanfar, who was adjudged goalkeeper of the tournament.

After a barren first period of extra-time, Arif came closest to breaking the deadlock when he missed with a header from pointblank in the 107th minute.

He wasn`t to be denied two minutes later though.

PAF got a free-kick 30 yards from goal and Ahmed climbed up the defence to nod down for Arif who scored with a thumping volley inside the six-yard box.

With a 3000-strong crowd at the KPT Stadium rooting for KElectric, the goal sprang them into action but they were caught on the counter-attack in the 116th minute.

In a flowing move, Mansoor switched play from left to the centre of the park with a cross which Mujahid headed into the path of Ahmed who in turn found a darting Sher with a pass through the heart of the K-Electric defence and he finished with aplomb.

As Sher reeled off in celebration towards the corner flag, the dejected K-Electric players and their fans endured that sinking feeling all over again.