A much-changed Panjab FA side comfortably overcame the challenge posed by host nation, Barawa, securing a comprehensive 5-0 victory at Gander Green Lane.
The win sets up a fifth/sixth place play-off against Cascadia on Saturday June 9, in what promises to be an entertaining conclusion to Panjab’s 2018 CONIFA World Football Cup.
Reuben Hazell handed Raajan Gill, Sufyan Zia, Glenvir Hayer, Taimoor Hussain, and Nikinder Uppal their first starts in this year’s competition. And with Kamaljit Singh, Rajpal Virk, and Nathan Minhas also named to start the game, it was a very attacking team.
It didn’t take long for Panjab to grab a goal either, as Kamaljit Singh slotted home after 8 minutes. Quick feet from the forward helped him dart between three Barawa challenges before firing into the bottom corner, leaving the goalkeeper helpless.
Singh’s goal was Panjab’s first from open play since the 8-0 drubbing of Kabylia on May 31, but they were made to wait for another one.
Panjab pressed for a second as Minhas, Hussain, and Uppal caused havoc in the Barawa half. But resolute defending, together with good goalkeeping from Calvin King, kept Panjab out.
There was controversy, though, midway through the first half. Firstly, the referee waved away a strong Panjab penalty appeal when Nikinder Uppal went down in the box. And then, just moments later, it looked as though Barawa had won themselves a penalty of their own.
But instead, the referee brandished a green card to Barawa’s Simon Noel for diving. This brand-new concept, which is exclusive to the 2018 CONIFA World Football Cup, means that the team must immediately substitute the green carded player.
Noel was duly substituted by his coaching staff, to be replaced by Barawa’s captain, Omar Sufi, who started the game on the bench.
The disruption, though, did little to halt the Panjab charge. Just minutes after the enforced change, Uppal blazed a good chance over the bar after Minhas found him in space on the right side of the box.
Seconds later, Kamaljit Singh flashed an effort wide of the post before Taimoor Hussain cannoned a first-time shot off the crossbar after being set up by great work from Camen Bhandal in the 37th minute.
Barawa came agonisingly close to equalising just before half time when they did well to head a deep cross back across goal. Despite players lining up to tap it in, somehow, nobody could, the ball rolled out for a goal kick.
The teams went into the break with Kamaljit Singh’s early strike being the difference, but Panjab came out in prolific form in the second period.
Nathan Minhas put Panjab in control when he coolly lobbed the ball over Calvin King soon after the restart. That was the young forward’s first goal for the side, and surely not his last, judging by his excellent technique in finishing.
King then did superbly to tip Kamaljit Singh’s driven effort around the post, before Minhas and Singh both dragged good chances wide.
Not long after, though, Singh bagged his second when he had the easiest of finishes after King could only parry Taimoor Hussain’s effort into his path a few yards out in the 65th minute.
Singh then grabbed his hat-trick when the ball once again fell kindly to him, this time after a shot from Nikinder Uppal.
A fifth goal for Panjab FA came in the dying seconds, and it was from none other than Kamaljit Singh. The forward, who was still full of energy, pressed the Barawa defence to win the ball back on the edge of their box before sliding an effort beyond the helpless Calvin King.
And that’s how it ended after 90 entertaining minutes, Panjab FA 5-0 Barawa at Gander Green Lane.
Panjab will ride high from their win to face Cascadia on June 9, as the two sides battle for 5th place in the 2018 CONIFA World Football Cup.
Written by Keiran Samra.