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Azerbaijan crush Qatar, Lanka pummel Turkey.

RAAJIV TRIPATHI DOHA HOSTS Qatar gained an early lead but were edged by Azerbaijan in a dramatic match that saw nine goals at Al Rayyan Stadium on the opening day of the World Series Hockey League on Tuesday.

In another match, Sri Lanka handed a 6-2 thrashing to Turkey, riding a brace by Ranasingha Arachige Dhammika. Other scorers for the winners were Tennakoon Mudiyanselage Sagara, Raane Gardhinewage, Mahroof Mohamed, Dharmarathna Meegahamulgedara. Ozel Ormun and Acikgoz Onur contributed one goal each for Turkey.

Gazanfar Ali of Azerbaijan and Mohamad Noor Hafiq of Qatar were outstanding performers, both scoring a hat-trick apiece.

Skipper Saleh Balamiyev had a double to his credit. Qatar's other goal was netted by Sheraz Ali Rafaqat.

Qatar, lucky to escape when the bar blocked a drag flick from Muhammad Saleem Khalid in the 17th minute, were the first to go ahead four minutes later. Savio Nayak was fouled and Hafiq cleanly banged the ball into the boards off a pass by Samiullah Saleem Mohammed.

But as experienced as they were, Azerbaijan began exerting the pressure on the home team and two minutes later, they got a stroke. Qatari goalkeeper Shahzad Ali Rafaqat however displayed his reflexes and foiled the push from Tariq Aziz well with his foot.

Minutes later Qatar had a chance to double up their advantage through the second penalty corner. The drag flick from Noor Hafiq could not beat Azerbaijan custodian Vladimir Avdonin.

Azerbaijan were rewarded for their sustained efforts in the 28th minute when skipper Balamiyev slotted the ball from the stroke, coming following a penalty corner. Qatar coach Shaiful Azli was not satisfied with the decision and was convinced that his defender had blocked the ball with his stick, not the thigh.

Soon after the resumption, Azerbaijan raced to a 3-1 lead. It was Gazanfar Ali, who unleashed two quick blows off the penalty corners. In the 40th minute, he had a perfect drive that crashed into the net and then the striker needed a deflection to score his second goal of the match.

There was another controversy raising its ugly head when Azerbaijan grabbed the 4-1 lead through a disputed penalty stroke.

Saleh Balamiyeh easily streaked the ball home in the 49 th minute.

The Qatari players displayed their anger but also demonstrated their fighting spirits before turning around the match.

Hafiq blasted Qatar's second and third goals off penalty corners, while Rafaqat deadlocked the scores in the 57th minute through a majestic piece of solo effort. He dashed into the striking zone after picking a loose ball. He intelligently dodged the defender and fired a reversestick shot which beat the goalkeeper and lodged into the corner of the goal.

The match suddenly came alive by the Qatar's resurgence but Azerbaijan controlled the proceedings and sealed the fate of the rivals off the next opportunity that came their way.

They forced another penalty corner and Ali struck the matchwinner with a push that rocked the roof of the goal. The goal also fetched him a glorious hat-trick as well.

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Publication:Qatar Tribune (Doha, Qatar)
Geographic Code:9AZER
Date:Nov 28, 2012
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