By Umaid Wasim,
KARACHI: It was such a chastening defeat for Wapda that they immediately left the KPT Stadium at the final whistle. For Karachi United manager Taha Alizai, it was the biggest win in the club’s history.
“It should be the biggest,” he told Dawn moments after his second-division side swept aside the four-time Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) champions 2-0 in the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) President’s Cup on Thursday.
“I’m proud of the team how they rose to the occasion and got the result we needed to keep us alive in the tournament.”
The result means United, who lost 1-0 to fellow second-tier side Pakistan Steel in the group opener, advance to the quarter-finals from Group ‘A’ while Wapda now need to overcome Steel on Saturday by two clear goals to book their place in the last eight of the 12-team tournament.
“We’re slowly getting closer to the top teams in country and this result is an indication that we can mix with the best,” United captain Zohaib Ahmed told Dawn.
Founded in 1996, United started taking part in domestic tournaments four years ago.
Last year they were gearing up in their bid to earn promotion to the PPFL from the Pakistan Football Federation League (PFFL) but the top two divisions haven’t been held since a dispute broke out in the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) in the lead-up to its presidential elections in June 2015.
“If the league was still being held, who knows we might’ve earned promotion,” added Zohaib. “But with our performances over the last year, we’ve certainly shown we can step up in class.”
In February last year, United made it through to the second round of the PFF Cup — a tournament organised by the Lahore High Court (LHC)-appointed administrator of the country’s football governing body.
“We want to go far in this tournament and if we play our best game, I see no reason why we can’t beat anyone,” Taha added.
In a refreshing display of attacking football, United took the game to Wapda and dominated the more-experienced side for large periods.
They had opportunities early on but it was in the second half when they really got their scoring boots on.
Asif Khan gave them the lead in the 51st when he latched on a fine through ball from midfield and finished clinically from just inside the box.
With Wapda sensing a huge upset, they poured forward in search of an equaliser but that opened up space for United to counterattack and their clinching goal came on one of those in the 79th.
After winning the ball in midfield, three United players exchanged quick passes to put Noman Dodo clear and even though his initial effort was parried, he hammered home to rebound to secure victory for his side.
“It was a must-win game for us and we’re glad we stepped up,” the two goal-scorers told Dawn. “We hope to continue this form in the quarters.”
POLICE HOLD KPT
The third day of the tournament belonged to second division teams and the tone was set earlier when Pakistan Police scored late on to force a 1-1 draw against top-tier Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and throw Group ‘D’ wide open.
“Our heads dropped after we scored and that shouldn’t have happened because it has cost us a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals,” KPT head-coach Mohammad Asif told Dawn.
“We now have to see what happens in the final group match [between Police and National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) on Saturday] to see if we’ve progressed.”
KPT, who also let slip a 1-0 lead against NBP in their opener on Tuesday, dominated the first half and looked set for the last eight when Mohammad bin Younis finished off a swift attack with a left-footed finish in the 80th minute.
But Police hit back in the final minute when they won a free-kick right on the edge of the area.
“The defender should’ve been aware that he was going for a tackle in a dangerous area,” rued Asif.
The free-kick was swung in viciously from the left and after the ball ricocheted in the area, Abdul Wasif smashed it sweetly with his left foot to secure a vital point for his side.
As it stands, a 2-2 draw in the final match will take both Police and NBP through on goals scored. But if it finishes 1-1, there would be nothing to separate the teams.
Tournament organisers had no clue on Thursday when asked what method would be used to separate the teams should such a scenario occur.
While ‘drawing of lots’ is the commonly used method in such a scenario, confusion reigned with a straight shootout being mentioned amongst the possibilities.
“The method will be decided by the technical committee meeting on Friday,” the organisers told Dawn, amid murmurs of discontent amongst the three teams who said that this should’ve been decided when the tournament draws were held.