Qatar let down by poor umpiring against Azeris.
By N.D. Prashant/Doha Poor umpiring decisions and lack of video
referral cost Qatar the match as they went down fighting, 4-5, in a
thriller against an experienced Azerbaijan side in the opening match of
the World Series Hockey League at the Al Rayyan Stadium yesterday.
Gazanfar Ali stole the show with a hat-trick, while skipper Saleh
Balamiyev, with a brace of goals, completed the tally for the winners.
For Qatar, Mohamed Noor Hafiq stood out with a brilliant hat-trick and
Sheraz Ali Rafaqat scored one. If a team are awarded three penalty
strokes, rarely can they end up as the losing side. And that's the
only thing that separated Qatar from Azerbaijan. The young home side
matched their seasoned counterparts in every department and kept them
engaged until the final hooter. The first quarter of play was mainly
confined to the mid-field with either side trying to get a measure of
each other's play. Had it not been for the framework, Azerbaijan
would have managed to get the breakthrough in the 17th minute. Mohamed
Saleem Khalid's drag flick beat everyone but found the vertical on
its way. Savio Nayak earned Qatar their first penalty corner in the 21nd
minute and they made that count. Noor Hafiq sounded the board with a
neat hit off a release from Sami Ullah Saleem Mohamed and Qatar led 1-0.
Two minutes later, Azerbaijan missed a golden opportunity to draw level
after being awarded a penalty stroke. Qatar custodian Shahzad Ali
Rafaqat, however, read the flick from Tariq Aziz well and came up with a
brilliant block with a full stretched right foot. Minutes later Qatar
stole their second penalty corner but this time the drag flick from Noor
Hafiq was well blocked by the Azerbaijan custodian Vladimir Avdonin.
Azerbaijan then drew level in the 28th minutes through skipper Balamiyev
after a controversial stroke was awarded following a penalty corner.
Qatar's coach Shaiful Azli later argued that it was not the thigh
of defender but the stick that had deflected the ball. After the change
of ends, the visitors stormed into 3-1 lead with back-to-back strikes.
Both goals came through the stick off Gazanfar Ali. Ali first found the
back of the goal with a clinical drag flick off a penalty corner in the
40th minute before finding his second, two minutes later, with a neat
deflection from the right on a counter. Azerbaijan then snatched their
fourth goal through yet another questionable stroke in the 49th minute
through Saleh Balamiyeh. That decision left the Qatari camp fuming but
it did enough to ignite the spark that had gone dead after conceding
goals. The match then turned on its head in a span of just five minutes.
Qatar unleashed an array of raids and pumped in three goals in quick
succession to make it 4-4. Noor Hafiq scored Qatar's second and
third goals through penalty corners, while the equaliser was a brilliant
solo effort from Rafaqat in the 57th minute. A timely substitution
allowed Rafaqat to get hold of a loose ball and after making a swift run
down the right flank he had lone defender to beat. Rafaqat side-stepped
him before finding the right corner of the goal with power-packed
reverse hit and triggered wild celebrations in the Qatari camp. With the
match suddenly slipping away, the experienced Azerbaijan somehow managed
to stem the rot by slowing down the game. They then stole another
penalty corner in the dying minutes to steal the match winner. Ali found
the roof of the goal with a measured drag flick and in the process, also
completed his hat-trick. In another match played earlier in the day, Sri
Lanka thrashed Turkey 6-2. For Lanka, Ranasingha Arachige Dhammika
scored a brace while Tennakoon Mudiyanselage Sagara, Raane Gardhinewage,
Mahroof Mohamed, Dharmarathna Meegahamulgedara scored a goal apiece.
Ozel Ormun and Acikgoz Onur reduced the margin for Turkey.
Gulf Times Newspaper 2012
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