Lahore, 20 April: National Champion WAPDA struck in later stages of both session to beat Nepal Police Club 2-0 in Group-C tie at Dasarath Rangasala Stadium in 7th AFC President’s Cup today. The all important goals were struck by spearhead Arif Mehmood and winger Jadeed Khan Pathan.
It was third clash between two teams in event whose history orbited around six years. Previous two ties between were ended in draw. It was 1-1 in 2008 and 0-0 in 2009. It was also tight finish with both coaches – Khalid Butt (WAPDA) and Birat Krishna Shrestha (NPC) – who designed 4-4-2 formation to tackle each other.
The home team opened the match in style Yogesh Shrestha curls the ball, goalie Abdul; Aziz spills the ball, Ramesh Katuwal triedto head the ball but the ball out from six yard distance. Forty seconds later. Jumanu Rai dribbled past defender but Aziz made superb save.
WAPDA recovered in the 7th minute, striker Arif Mehmood went through the defense but Ritesh Thapa came forward to clear the ball. Bhola Silwal. The 14th minute, passed the ball to Suraj BK but he wasted it.The 17th minute saw another beautiful move. Jumanu Rai set Bharat Khawas but Naveed Akram cleared the ball.
WAPDA surged ahead in the 38th minute. Suman Subedi left the ball thinking it as off side, 31 years old spearhead Arif punished him and steered the ball from a tight angle, past goalie Ritesh Thapa. It was fifth AFC President’s Cup goal in four events for Multan-born Arif who finished leading scorer in PPFL 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010.
WAPDA led 1-0 at interval and NPC had a great chance of equalizer in the 53rd minute but Yogesh Shrestha failed to beat active Aziz under the cross piece. Arif, who scored hat-trick against Bhutan in SAFF Championship 2009, might have scored another in the 60th minute off Mehmood Ali’s pass but his shot was wayward.
Another counter move allowed Arif another chance. Jacobabad-born Zulfiqar Ali Shah , Captain of Pakistan in 30th Asian U19 Championship at Bangalore in 1998, swept a quick pass to Arifi but goalie Ritesh was alert. WAPDA’s keeper Abdul Aziz had another great game and he was asked to make save again in the 75th minute from Ramesh Katuwal.
WAPDA doubled the margin the final minute of the game when Arif Mehmood created a pass to Jadeed Khan and unmarked Pakistan Olympic team skipper from Chaman tucked the ball in.
In other game of Group C, Turmenistan’s FC Balkan were held 1-1 by Taiwan Power Company at Halchowk Stadium, leaving WAPDA top of the Group with 3 points. WAPDA do face danger of automatic disciplinary US$ 5000 fine by AFC for five of its players getting booked in today’s game.
Referee: Marai Mohammed Alawaji (Saudi Arabia).
Assistant Referees: Sergei Grischenko (KRZ), Zheng Weixiang (China)
4th Official: Jahanbazi Yadollah (Iran)
22 April: WAPDA v Taiwan Power Company (Halchowk Stadium 3.30 PM)
Balkan v Nepal Police Club (Dasarath Rangasala Stadium 3.30 PM)
24 April: Nepal Police Club v Taiwan Power Company (Dasarath Rangasala Stadium 3.30 PM), Balkan v WAPDA (Halchowk Stadium 3.30 PM)