By our Lahore Correspondents
In an enthralling encounter at Lahore’s Railway Stadium, ARMY failed to beat a severely depleted WAPDA side, who were missing a number of key players through injury for the game.
The match ended in a 1-1 draw with both teams scoring in the second half. Striker Afzal scored first for WAPDA from a right foot volley from the edge of the box. ARMY’s Abdur Rehman repeated the trick twenty minutes later to get a draw for the Pindi based side.
WAPDA were missing a number of key players for this fixture including star players, striker Arif, and winger Imran Niazi among others. But their bench was strong enough and Coach Khalid Butt’s tactics spot on, as they got the vital draw.
ARMY fielded a strong side but weren’t able to break WAPDA down despite their good passing and physical play.
The match started with both teams enjoying alternating spells of dominating possession. The first real event of the game was when an ARMY corner was half cleared by the WAPDA defence and found itself to ARMY’s Shabbir at the edge of the box. He volleyed the ball to the WAPDA goal but the watermen’s number one Abdul Aziz dived full length to his left to make a world class save and keep the teams level.
WAPDA’s coach sent the team out to play deep and they defended well while ARMY’s captain Imran Hussein and striker M. Imran tried to create chances through the middle. WAPDA cb Asif defended brilliantly and especially in the air where he won almost all the headers he contested. On the occasion that ARMY got a half chance they could not finish well enough.
Offensively the home team WAPDA played Man of the Match Afzal as a lone striker up front. Balls through the midfield were played behind the defence and he ran his heart out in the game getting on the ends of them, holding the ball well and beating the opponent defenders on one on ones at almost every time of asking. His crossing could’ve been a little better though.
The first half ended goal-less but the 300 people in attendance were given an entertaining game to see.
The second half saw ARMY going all out for the win, but this led to them employing the long balls at the start of the half but the strategy was soon aborted. Between the 55th and 70th minute WAPDA completely dominated the game and got their reward when a deflected ball reached striker Afzal at the edge of the box. He put his foot through the ball, volleying the ball at some speed in the upper right corner of the ARMY net. One Nil WAPDA.
ARMY couldn’t afford losing the game as it would’ve increased the gap at the top of PPL to 16 points. They fought back, played short passes and tried to find a way through. But it was a result of a set piece that ARMY got the break they needed. Left Back Tanvir who was brilliant offensively but a defensive shambles, got brought down near the edge of the box. The resulting free kick half cleared made its way to A. Rehman at the edge of the box and he did exactly what Afzal did at the other end. The ARMY man rifled one into the back of the net. 1-1 and game on.
Army were going all out for a winner now. But WAPDA captain Zulfiqar sat back, played defensive mid and made sure there was no space for ARMY to exploit through the middle of the park. The moves through the wings could not find the finish they demanded from the strikers. They tried but it was not to be.
One all it ended as WAPDA are now inches from the PPL title. The home team was ecstatic with its performance considering the circumstances. Coach Khalid Butt was happy with the team’s performance.
FPDC Man of the Match: WAPDA striker Afzal. Playing the lone striker role brilliantly upfront and scored the goal. Beat the defenders on will, and ran so hard that he was visibly fatigued after the game. Was a great outlet and chased and controlled all long and short passes. Word was that it was the first time he played so well. Well if he gets more chances he can be a great player for the watermen in the future.
Controversy of the game: An ARMY player on the break was brought down from behind but the referee, who had a poor game, did not even give him a yellow card. ARMY coach Col. Nouman was angered at the surprising decision and vented his frustration at the match commissioner and 4th official.
WAPDA goal keeper Abdul Aziz made an amazing save in the opening minutes of the game. He almost got his hands on the A. Rehman volley. Good delivery and commanding performance. Had a moment when he had to get the ball when his defence switched off from a corner and he had not called for it.
ARMY cb Muhabbat and WAPDA cb Asif played well with some towering headers but could’ve done without a single mistake each they made while clearing the ball.
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