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SSGC & WAPDA Join National Bank & PIA in Semis

Lahore : In the 63rd Zaitoon National Hockey Championships at National Hockey Stadium, Lahore, it was the final day of the pool matches in the Super League.  Army defeated SNGPL 7-1 and SSGC drew with WAPDA 2-2 in the last two matches of the Pool B.

In the semifinals,  PIA (no 1in pool A) plays WAPDA (no 2 in pool B). SSGC (no 1 in pool B faces National Bank (no 2 in pool B)
The two semifinals are scheduled on Tuesday at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM.
Army second time unlucky despite a 7-1 win as WAPDA drew 2-2 with SSGC
The second qualifier for the semi final from the pool B was only determined when the final whistle of the last match was blown.
Two days back, Army had to contend with a 2-2 draw against the formidable WAPDA after conceding  a last minute equaliser. Today, they had to beat SNGPL with a six goal margin and then see WAPDA losing to SSGC in the last encounter.
The soldiers did their job magnificently, defeating SNGPL 7-1.
However, later WAPDA achieved the minimum requirement to move to last four- drawing 2-2 with SSGC
Army Ran Over SNGPL 7-1
The first 15 minutes were no indicator of the events to come. Both the sides had phases of ascendancy and entered the opposition’s circle but there was no attempt on the goal.
Second quarter was electrifying. First five minutes witnessed as many attempts from either side.
Last 10 minutes were completely dominated by the soldiers. On their first penalty corner, the ball remained in the circle for sometime with a little ping pong. Eventually, promising forward Nauman netted it by flicking a risen ball.
Soon, a good attack saw a parallel pass near the goal line on circle’s left side availed by well positioned Abbas.
Army made it 3-0 in the 29th minute. Yasir sprinted into the circle and his seemingly weak push surprisingly went in off a defender’s stick.
The  young Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited, making their debut at the Nationals, rallied well in the third quarter. They had more goal scoring opportunities though only one was availed. Dawood beautifully first timed a good ball into the circle.
With only two goals ahead,  and 15 minutes left, army’s hopes to keep the semi final dream alive were fading.
Apart from Pakistan’s former captain M.Imran and current national star M.Rizwan Sr, army too were fielding a youthful team. And they showed great resilience in the last quarter. After an SGPL attempt rebounded off the pole, it was all army domination. They repeatedly penetrated the opponent’s defence especially from the right flank.
In the 50th minute, after a wonderful run along the right flank, ball was back passed to Nauman, who had all the time to make it 4-1. Fifth goal was a mirror image of the previous. Hence, Nauman completed his hat trick.
An excellent one touch move found Jabbar slotting the ball into the goal from a close range.
6-1 up, army now required one more to achieve the objective. It came to the final minute. An excellent M.Rizwan Sr long ball was well trapped on the left flank. An equally good feed in was pushed into the cage by Jabbar again.
Army: Nauman 3 (22′, 50′ 54′) Jabbar 2 (54′, 60′), Abbas (27′), Afzal (29′
SNGPL: Dawood (34′)
WAPDA Held onto Semifinal Spot  by Skin of their Teeth
For WAPDA the minimum requirement was a draw. SSGC, already qualified, still went for a victory and it was a competitive match throughout.
WAPDA started in earnest and had the upper hand most of the first quarter; made two good attempts on the goal apart from earning two penalty corners. But it finished 0-0.
Nevertheless, they were one up in the 18th minute, diminutive Asad Bashir, unmarked at top  of circle, scored after receiving an excellent flat backhander from the left.
Sui Southern Gas Company made an instant comeback; not only equalising but going ahead within the next two minutes. Rizwan Ali’s inch perfect long pass was shot into the net by the under 18 international Naveed Alam in the flash of an eye. Then Rana Sohail sent in an excellent diagonal  through ball from the left. Adeel, another promising under 18 international, was brought down by the advancing goal keeper. Umpire had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty stroke spot. Abbas Haider sent the goal keeper the wrong way- it was 2-1 in favour of SSGC.
But soon the SSGC had a severe setback, their captain Adnan Maqsood, Olympian 2004, had to leave the field after receiving a nasty injury to nose.
WAPDA were now faster in their attacks but SSGC defended well. Their net minder Amjad Ali affected a couple of fines saves.
Looking for the much needed equaliser, WAPDA entered veteran Waseem, Pakistan’s most capped international, early in the second half.
They exerted sustained pressure with good moves. After the fourth PC was dramatically deflected away by the line stopper, the leveller arrived off the next PC in the 43rd minute.  Aleem Bilal’s stinger thundered against the top left of the net.
The absorbing battle continued in the last 15 minutes with both the sides going forward. However, SSGC had the  only real opportunity.  Their only PC of the day was well cleared by the line stopper.
It ended 2-2, much to the relief of WAPDA.
SCORERS: WAPDA: Asad Bashir (18′) Aleem Bilal (43′), SSGC (Naveed Alam 19′), (Abbas Haider 20′)

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