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Panjab FA beat Cascadia on penalties, after the two sides drew 3-3 in normal time, in an unbelievable final CONIFA World Football Cup match at St Paul’s on June 9, 2018.
It was the best possible finish to a somewhat disappointing tournament for Panjab who were beaten in the Quarter Finals by Padania. The result against Cascadia means they finish the tournament in fifth place, while the North Americans come sixth.
Unfortunately, though, in the hours following the final whistle at St Paul’s, it became clear that the game was to be Reuben Hazell’s final match in charge of the Lions.
On the pitch, Hazell’s men were to do him proud for one final time on a burning hot day in London. After thrashing tournament hosts, Barawa, 5-0 in the previous round, Panjab FA began this fifth-place play-off in similar emphatic fashion despite several changes to the starting XI.
Amar and Arjun Purewal returned alongside Jhai Dhillon, and captain, Amarvir Sandhu at the expenses of Toch Singh, Taimoor Hussain, Nikinder Uppal, and Kamaljit Singh.
They were made to wait, however, as kick-off was delayed by 30 minutes due to a Cascadia kit error. The team from North America eventually came on to the pitch, albeit bizarrely in yellow bibs.
Regardless of the strange kit situation, it was an entertaining start to the game with Raajan Gill and Sufyan Zia combining well to clear a Cascadian effort off the line before Amar Purewal and Camen Bhandal came close to fashioning opportunities at the other end.
Raj Virk then opened the scoring in the 18th minute to make it 1-0 to Panjab FA. The ball broke to the attacking midfielder on the edge of the Cascadia box before he swept it cleanly in to the top corner.
Amarvir Sandhu seemed to pick up a slight knock leading to Nikinder Uppal coming on to replace the skipper. But that didn’t stem the Panjab flow of attack, and Nathan Minhas extended the lead in the 24th minute.
At just 19 years of age, N. Minhas is the youngest member of the Panjab FA squad, but the forward expertly smashed a half-volley past the Cascadia goalkeeper.
Nathan Minhas put Panjab FA three goals up ten minutes later when he slid a left footed effort underneath the onrushing De La Torre.
Cascadia had a great chance to pull one back but Calum Ferguson blazed over the bar from eight yards. Nathan Minhas then looked set to score a first-half hat-trick, but the striker unselfishly rolled it across goal to leave Amar Purewal one-on-one with the goalkeeper. The centre forward, though, hit the chance over.
Raajan Gill then ensured that Purewal didn’t pay a heavier price for his miss when the Panjab goalkeeper pulled off a stunning save to tip a fierce shot around the post for a Cascadia corner.
From the resulting set piece, though, Gill was helpless as a bullet header from Hector Morales flew into his net to make it 3-1 at half-time.
Cascadia came out for the second period back in their usual white kit, and with it, seemed like a brand-new team.
Gill tipped an effort over the bar, before a long-range drive cannoned back off the Panjab post, as Cascadia looked to up the ante.
The goal finally came in the 54th minute when Hector Morales and Calum Ferguson combined smartly to work the ball into an empty net after Gill initially did well to stop a curling shot from outside the area.
And just minutes later, the team from North America were level when Ferguson equalised. They thought they’d stolen it too when Yuri Farkas put the ball into the net, only for the linesman’s flag to rescue Panjab.
De La Torre made a crucial save to deny substitute marksman, Kamaljit Singh, from close range. And in the final seconds of the game, both Camen Bhandal and Sufyan Zia made vital blocks to deny Cascadia.
The fifth-place play-off ended 3-3 after 90 minutes, and was to be decided by penalties. Here’s how they went:
PANJAB (0-0): De La Torre gets a strong hand to deny Amar Purewal with his penalty.
CASCADIA (0-0): Raajan Gill makes a good save down low to his right.
PANJAB (0-0): Sufyan Zia smashes his spot kick off the crossbar.
CASCADIA (0-0): Gill dives to his left and blocks the Cascadia penalty. The backspin on the bouncing ball looks to put it into the net, but the goalkeeper reacts quickly to stop it again.
PANJAB (1-0): A goal at last! Raj Virk slots his effort into the bottom corner.
CASCADIA (1-1): Cascadia’s penalty finds the net after sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.
PANJAB (2-1): De La Torre gets a touch to Jhai Dhillon’s penalty, but it’s not enough and the full back scores.
CASCADIA (2-2): Gill cannot stop Cascadia from scoring their second penalty.
PANJAB (3-2): Tournament top scorer, Kamaljit Singh makes no mistake from his spot kick.
CASCADIA (3-3): A stutter in the run up deceives the Panjab goalkeeper, and Cascadia convert their fifth penalty.
PANJAB (4-3): Arjun Jung sends the goalkeeper the wrong way to put Panjab ahead in sudden-death.
CASCADIA (4-3): Raajan Gill saves the Cascadia penalty to hand Panjab FA victory in this fifth-place play-off at the 2018 CONIFA World Football Cup.
Written by Keiran Samra.