By Gauhar Mahmood Azeem
FootballPakistan.Com Lahore Correspondent
In a thrilling encounter at the MTFA ground Lahore, PEL defeated NAVY by a single goal scored by midfielder Ijaz Sarfraz in the 60th minute.
PEL’s number 1, Sakib, kept NAVY at bay throughout the game producing a man of the match performance while doing so. The young goalkeeper made a world class diving left handed stop on a deflected injury time shot to keep the score at 1-0 and earn PEL a crucial victory in their hunt for PPL survival.
The first half was a midfield battle with both teams putting all their energy trying to drive though the opponents’ midfield. Both teams played strongly and tackled hard with some ill timed ones as well making for a feisty afternoon game.
NAVY were playing with a flat back four, one of the reasons for their solid defense. Meanwhile PEL were playing with attacking full backs. NAVY’s midfield, particularly their strong CM Nomi Martin, drove the play through the middle but all their strikers could muster were a few long range efforts which were a piece of cake for Sakib.
To the end of the half PEL’s impressive right wing came into play with winger Rashid and young full back Sheru creating a couple of great opportunities which the strikers couldn’t convert and put just wide.
The first half ended goal-less. An even contest with no team making any change at half time.
The second half started with NAVY piling the pressure on the home side. But they couldn’t capitalize and PEL caught them napping.
Rashid took a corner from the right side and played a neat short pass to Ijaz Sarfraz who let loose a powerful drive from the edge of the box into the back of the NAVY net. Unexpected but thoroughly deserved as the set play caught NAVY completely off guard.
The most dramatic part of the game immediately followed. Of the next play NAVY earned a free kick on the edge of the box. Nomi Martins powerful drive deflected off the wall and fell on the feet of their striker who was fouled in the box. NAVY had a chance to immediately redeem themselves within a minute of conceding.
Basharat stepped up and just like David Beckham in EURO 2004 sent the penalty sailing high over the cross-bar. A great opportunity squandered by NAVY while the home side sensed victory.
After this NAVY again looked to Martin for the mid field drive and the strongly built midfielder gave all he had but it wasn’t to be. PEL started playing on the counter and young forward Saadullah showed great movement behind the NAVY back four and kept them deep thus creating some spaces for the midfielders to run into.
The late NAVY surge was nullified by Sakib who on a free kick from the edge of the box dived full length to his left and caught the ball in his gloves. His strong punches and well timed jumps made sure PEL held on for the win.
This is a win that helps PEL greatly in their quest to ensure PPL safety this year. The young team put in a performance with their heart and soul against a more physical NAVY side and they won the game even in the absence of their Head Coach and several of their main players who are with the national u-23 team right now. A good game of football!
Sakib G.K. PEL: An almost perfect game by the goal keeper who did everything he was asked for.
Nomi Martin CM NAVY: An absolute monster in midfield, the guy has got an engine, the stand out out-field player today.
Saadullah FW PEL: Good movement and beat the offside trap with his speed, still inexperienced and finishing needs improvement.