Karachi: PIA and Army won their respective quarterfinal matches beating SSGC and Punjab respectively in 61st PSO National Hockey Championship at the Sialkot Hockey Stadium in Sialkot on Thursday.
A tough competition is expected in the first semifinal between the two top teams PIA and NBP comprising of Olympians on both sides. Another tough battle is expected between WAPDA and Army. After a rest day on Friday, both semifinals will be played on Saturday, January 9.
Earlier, in the third quarterfinal, PIA beat Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) 3-1 in penalty shoots after drawing 1-1 in regulation time. Though SSGL took lead in the 15th minute through Abbas Haider who successfully converted a penalty corner yet they went on the defensive which proved a wrong strategy in the end.
PIA forwards took full advantage of the game plan of their opponents, created gaps and launched frequent attacks. SSGC, however, successfully maintained their lead amid excellent goalkeeping by former Olympian Salman Akbar who demonstrated his skill and experience to guard the fort.
The Airliners got five penalty corners but failed to convert any. Salman stopped as many as four hits in the goal post. In the 56th minute PIA forwards launched a ferocious attack through Shafqat Rasool and Mohammad Zubair and earned a penalty corner for their team and the later Zubair made no mistake to level the score. In the penalty shoots session, PIA scored two while the SSGC failed to convert four shoots.
In the other match, Army also had to make strenuous efforts to beat stubborn Punjab in the last quarterfinal match. They exerted pressure on their opponents converting a penalty corner in the 12th minute through their captain Mohammed Imran.
But they went through a troublesome phase to defend their fort which was frequently attacked by the Punjab forwards. Punjab wasted a fair chance in the third quart. However, in the last quart, Punjab’s Faizan levelled the score through successful conversion of a penalty stroke in the 51st minute. But six minutes later Army scored their second goal through Kashif Ali to pull 2-1 triumph and a place in semifinals.
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