by Alam Zeb Safi
PESHAWAR: Peshawar Combined FC annexed the inaugural Ufone Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Football Cup when they defeated DFA Chitral FC 4-2 on penalty shootout in the gripping final at the jam-packed Tehmas Khan Football Stadium here on Tuesday.
Under a 12 degree Celsius temperature the thriller was goalless draw in the scheduled 70 minutes that directly stretched it to the penalty shootouts. And there Peshawar held their nerves and notched a convincing victory.
Chitral’s skipper and discarded international striker Mohammad Rasool himself opted to serve under the cage during shootouts and that harmed his side. He himself and his cousin Alamgir Ghazi, a Pakistan under-19 skipper, missed their penalties.
In the scheduled time under floodlights, a gruelling fight was witnessed by a huge crowd, most from Chitral. Around quarter of the first half gloveman Aqib saved Peshawar from a what could have been a fatal blow when he stopped a penalty from young Haris.
Referee Anwar Khan awarded the penalty in favour of the hosts for a handball when Peshawar skipper Siraj was rushing on. A couple of minutes later Peshawar failed to capitalise on another solid opportunity.
Just before half time, Chitral’s Iftikhar Ali opted to delay a drive at a time when he had an open net in front, wasting a big chance. At half time, the match was evenly poised without any goal.
After the interval, both sides made concerted efforts to put pressure on each other through rallies from both wings but failed to finish off. Peshawar goalie Wali Khan saved his side when he superbly cleared a header from Alamgir Ghazi.
In the dyeing moments, Peshawar failed to convert an easy chance. Chitral’s skipper Mohammad Rasool said it was not their day. “Sometimes luck does not favour you and it hurts you,” Rasool told ‘The News’.
“But I am happy that we had players only from Chitral district. There was no outsider and it is called the spirit of the game,” he said. “Mostly our players were young and students. They have great talent and could move ahead in the sport,” Rasool said.
Peshawar Combined FC coach Faisal Javed credited the whole team for the victory. “The credit goes to the whole team as all players contributed,” Faisal told this correspondent. “There was no outsider in our side; all players we played are registered with district Peshawar. Yes, in Peshawar players from various regions reside but they are registered with DFA Peshawar and so are genuine,” Faisal said.
He was full of praise for Ufone for organising such a fantastic event. “I will give full credit to Ufone. They have done something which even regular football-playing departments or Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) never did,” Faisal said.
Ufone Public Relations Head Amir Pasha and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Football Association secretary Basit Kamal distributed cash prizes and medals besides handing over the trophy to the finalists.
In the event, the first of its kind in KP and fourth in the country — Ufone had already held three editions in Balochistan — as many as 960 players from 64 clubs showcased their talent in 21 cities of the province.