By Kariim Abdul
Puntland enjoyed a convincing 1-0 victory over Middle Shabelle/Hiiraan combined courtesy of a solitary second half goal converted at close range.
Middle Shabelle/Hiiraan put on a spirited fight for much the game before the deadlock was broken half way into second half. The stunning goal came as a result of team play, which seemed like a tactic from Puntland coach to score one goal and kill the game.
However, Middle Shabelle/Hiiraan didn’t give up and continued pushing upfront which saw a couple of attacking play halted inside the18-yard box by the hawk- eyed Puntland stopper.
Both sides went into the second half with different motives and levels of fitness came into play. The scotching sun notwithstanding the players seemed fatigued and apart from Middle Shabelle/Hiiraan seasonal attack threats, it was all-tactical game thanks to the halftime changing room calculated advice.
Middle Shabelle/Hiiraan displayed more attack minded kind of philosophy but it was Puntland that proved smart at the end of the day. They scored one goal and held back for much of the remaining 20 minutes, making it an uphill task for Middle Shabelle/Hiiraan to put it level.
Within a minute of the extra 4 minutes, Puntland was reduced to 10 men after one of their players received a red-card when he was booked for the second yellow card after a serious tackle. This was the first red card issued in the round of the semi-finals. The first semi-final between Jubbaland and Banaadir did not have a red-card. Hundreds of jubilant fans thronged the field after the final whistle, a clear indication of the stakes that await the Derby Final.
A raft of second-half substitutions highlighted the desire from the tacticians to book a place in the final. The encounter was graced by among other guests the Prime Minister of Somalia who hails from Puntland region, the home of the Puntland boys who will feature in the finals.
FINALS A NORTH SOUTH AFFAIR
Puntland triumph means that the much-anticipated final shall be a north-south deal. Jubbaland booked a date into the finals after thrashing Banaadir 9-8 in spot-kick after a barren draw in regular 90 minutes on Friday.
Not that the hundreds of Middle Shabelle/Hiiraan fans present wanted to hear excuses nor see their players shed tears after the final whistle, but they can go back home with pride and hope for the near future.
The talent portrayed by the lads showed a glimpse of hope for the near future. Indeed Middle Shabelle/Hiraan had thrashed Jubbaland prior in one of the matches played earlier in the week. Jubbaland will play Puntland the team that beat Middle Shabelle/Hiiraan in the second semi-final.