KARACHI: Nine-time national champions PIA defeated 2014-15 Pakistan Premier Football League runners-up PAF 2-0 to clinch the All-Pakistan Football Challenge Cup at the Qayyum Stadium in Peshawar yesterday.
PIA’s veteran striker Shakir Lashari scored the opening goal in the 41st minute to ensure they went into half-time with a well-deserved lead and Shah Zaib made it 2-0 in the 64th minute.
PAF had been the favourite to win the game after they had defeated KRL in the quarter-final and Islamabad in the semi-final and even PIA manager Zafar Iqbal admitted PAF were the stronger side on paper.
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“PAF were the better side going into the match; their players were stronger than ours,” Iqbal told The Express Tribune. “But we knew their game, so our plan was to make sure that we had possession and kept the ball on the ground since PAF players are taller than ours, they would’ve won had let them play their game. It was a good match and the trophy really matters to us, especially because we defeated a stronger side.”
PIA received Rs100,000 while PAF bagged Rs 50,000 as the runners-up.
Iqbal praised his striker Lashari, who was the top-scorer for his team with four goals in five matches at the tournament.
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On the other hand, PAF manager Arshad Khan praised PIA for their performance and said the tournament was great for Peshawar.
“We were hoping to win the final but PIA really performed well, especially Lashari; he is a very talented player,” said Arshad. “Overall it was a good tournament. We’re happy to be a part of it, but I feel the refereeing could’ve been better and more departments should’ve played in it.”
The All-Pakistan Challenge Cup featured 12 teams in four groups, with the top two sides from each group qualifying for the quarter-finals.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2016.
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