KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) showed splendid passing skills and counter-attack strategy to humble Habib Bank Limited (HBL) 3-0 in their 59th National Hockey Championship match at the Hockey Club of Pakistan (HCP) on Thursday.
PIA were ruthless from the start, pouring attacks on weak-looking HBL, especially from the left flank as their front trio of Inayat, Mohammad Zubair and Adnan Anwar combined to produce a deadly effect.
Their efforts paid off as some neat work on the left-wing allowed Adnan Anwar to slot home from close range on 10 minutes as HBL defence was caught napping. The goal brought the match alive as HBL mounted pressure to get even. The bankers did make some good moves but were poor in the attacking third losing the ball cheaply when it mattered most.
PIA had the opportunity to double their lead in the 13th minute, but failed to capitalise on penalty corner.
HBL conceded a second goal in the 20th minute, this time Shafqat Rasool finding the back of the net. It got worst for HBL when two minutes later they were 0-3 down, as Yasir Aslam scored to round off an exquisite move.
The penetration from Inayat and Zubair was simply outstanding as they were toying with HBL, making moves for fun. The bankers were stretched time and time again but somehow managed to avoid a fourth at the half-time thanks to their skipper and goalkeeper Imran Shah.
The second-half was resumed after a delay of nearly 25 minutes because of the opening ceremony which annoyed the officials who felt that such gaps break the rhythm of the game and players have to start afresh.
Dr Mohammad Ali Shah, Sindh’s sports minister, was the chief guest on the occasion. Also present on the occasion were Chairperson PHF Women Wing Mrs Khush Bakht Shujat (MNA), Olympian and chairman national selection committee Hanif Khan, Iftikhar Syed, Danish Kaleem, tournament director Ahmed Alam and organising secretary Muhammad Farooq.
HBL failed to learn from their mistakes when the second-half finally started and they were left as ball chasers on left-flank. On the other hand, PIA doubled their killer-act as they started attacking from both wings leaving HBL in disorder. On 40th minute, PIA started a superb move from their own-half and tormented HBL from the right flank this time but Inayat was unlucky as he tried a delightful chip to finish off the move to perfection, but the ball struck the crossbar.
HBL counter-attacked instantly, but once again they failed to seize the opportunity that came their way. They nearly had to pay for their costly misses when PIA broke again, but Goalie Imran Shah came to his side’s rescue.
Tempers started to flair as HBL were left frustrated and dangerous play came into the game which left a few players injured. Warnings were given and yellow card was shown to one PIA and one HBL player on 54th minute.
PIA’s defence was hardly tested whereas HBL had to deal with attack nearly after every three minutes. If not for Imran Shah’s efforts, HBL would have conceded nearly a dozen goals as he made several eye-catching saves to show that he can be Pakistan’s No.1 goalkeeper and is ready to fight for a place with Salman Akbar.
The match ended 3-0. Talking to ‘The News’, PIA manager Shahid Ali khan said their strategy was to play compact through the middle and hurt the opponents from flanks.
“I don’t want to exaggerate our win because we expect some tough encounters ahead. Our real test is yet to come because our defence was not tested and we have to play quite a few matches in short time so injuries will come into play and to rise from injuries and fatigue will be the real test,” he said.
HBL manager Mubashir said that their team was relatively inexperienced as senior players had left the department. Nevertheless, he praised Imran Shah: “He was brilliant and showed that he is definitely an asset for Pakistan.”
Meanwhile, defending champions National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) kicked off the campaign with an easy 4-0 win against Navy. Umar Bhutta, Mohammad Rizwan, Sabtain Raza and Ali Shah got onto the score-sheet for NBP.
In the first match of the day, PAF won 2-1 against Port Qasim. The second match between SSGC and WAPDA ended in a 1-1 draw.