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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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Publication:Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar)
Geographic Code:9AZER
Date:Nov 27, 2012
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