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63rd National Hockey Championships kicked off with three matches on opening day

Lahore : The 63rd National Hockey Championships started today with three matches on the opening day at the National Hockey Stadium, Lahore.
WAPDA beats SSGC 2-1. Army beats SNGPL 2-1, PIA beats NAVY 3-1.
The opening fixture was between two star studded sides.
WAPDA especially had a greater wealth of experience with a number of past and current internationals
including former national captains Sohail Abbas and Waseem Ahmed with the current Pakistan skipper Fareed captaining  them.
And It was Sohail Abbas, world record holder of highest international goal (348), who scored the winning goal in the last five minutes with a trade mark flick off his team’s first penalty corner.
Sui Southern Gas Corporation also boasts a few  senior and a greater number of junior internationals.
It was a cagey first 10 minutes. Gradually momentum picked up with WAPDA making more meaningful moves and had a couple of attempts on goal. But it was goalless after the first 30 minutes.
WAPDA continued to have the better of exchanges in the early part of the second half. They finally went ahead in the 38th minute. A defence splitting move with a number of deft touches culminated in the goal with the diminutive Asad Shabbir tapping the ball over the line with the goal at his mercy.
The youthful SSGC quickly regrouped and made repeated inroads in the opposing defence, earning  penalty corners and also creating open play chances. Off the 3rd PC, Kashif Shah made it all square, scoring off an indirect drill.
With 11 minutes to go, both the sides looked for the winner. Finally 40 year old Sohail Abbas, still in great physical condition, converted the penalty corner to earn his team full three points.
Scorers: WAPDA: Asad Shabbir (3′) & Sohail Abbas (56′)   SSGC: Kashif Shah (49′)
Debutants SNGPL go down to Army 1-2
It was very heartening to see a new departmental team entering the national hockey scene. Sui Northern Gas Pipelines’ management deserves appreciation for raising a hockey side.
Their young side includes a few current junior internationals and is coached by Pakistan’s former captain Usman Sheikh.
SNGPL faced the experienced Army side. It was an evenly fought first quarter with army getting two penalty corners and SNGPL two field goal opportunities. But goal eluded either side.
Army’s experience came to the fore and they held the upper hand in the second quarter but wasted the scoring chances. First half ended goal less.
Army’s attacks continued and just three minutes into the second half, Pakistan’s former captain M.Imran broke the ice, converting his team’s 3rd PC with a strong high push. The lead was soon doubled when Abbas, given all the time at the top of the circle sounded the board.
Having been outplayed in the second and third quarters, the SNGPL youngsters fought back in the last 15 minutes and a well contested battle ensued. The new entrants to the national hockey, got the just reward in the 54th minute. A fine cross from the right side was well availed by Sheyaryar on the far post to score his side’s first ever national championships’ goal. Army had a couple of good opportunities, including their seventh penalty corner of the day, in the dying minutes but it stood 2-1 at the end of the 60 minutes.
SNGPL boys displayed good individual skills but the recently raised outfit lacked coordination.
Scorers: Army: M.Imran (33′) & Abbas (36′),  SNGPL: Shehryar (54′)
Holders PIA Outplay Navy 3-1
Before the final match of the day, Punjab’s Minister of Sports, Jehangir Khanzada performed the formal opening ceremony of the 63rd National Hockey Championships. He was received by the Secretary General PHF, Shahbaz Ahmad at the stadium, and was introduced to the two teams.
PIA, the two time defending champions, with a number of past and present stars as well as upcoming youngsters, were everyone’s favourites. Navy, has in its ranks, Pakistan’s mega star Rashid and  a couple of current junior internationals.
PIA were off to a terrific start, going ahead in the very first minute. A move starting from their own half found Haseem Khan in the circle whose cross went in via a defender’s stick. The airline’s sorties persisted for initial seven minutes. Thereafter, the sailors recovered and it was an entertaining pole to pole stuff for the next 15 minutes.
In the 21st minute, a long strong pass from PIA’s captain M.Irfan reached unmarked Waseem Akram standing close to the goal, who flicked in the flash of an eye.
First half ended with PIA two goals ahead.
It was a same pattern in the second half with  PIA on top for large periods of time. It was 3-0 in the 36th minute. Imran Khan had a good though unchallenged run into the circle  and his cut back from the goal line was flicked in by veteran Zubair.
Navy’s spirits never got dampened and they finally managed to reduce the margin in the 54th minute through Waqarul Haq who scored via the only penalty stroke awarded in the day.
Navy had its moments and also earned three penalty corners but the overall superiority of the vastly experienced PIA was never in doubt.
PIA: Haseem (1′), Waseem Akram (21′) & Zubair (36′)    NAVY: Waqarul haq (54′)

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