KARACHI: International gloveman Saqib Hanif saved two penalties in acrobatic fashion to put strong Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in the final as they defeated Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) 4-2 in penalty shootout in the first semi-final of the First Naya Nazimabad Quaid-e-Azam Departmental Football tournament here at the KMC Stadium on Thursday.
After the game ended in a 1-1 draw in scheduled time, Saqib proved the difference for KRL in penalty shootout when he saved two successive penalties taken by Mohammad Lal and Mehmood Khan to seal a comfortable win for four-time former Premier League champions.
“I had planned to save maximum. The second penalty which I saved was very difficult. I had challenged Mehmood that I will save his shot and I did,” Saqib told ‘The News’.Saqib also has the experience of playing back to back second-tier leagues in Maldives. And he plans to sign a contract in January with a top league side there.
“This time, I will play for the Maldives top league side,” Saqib informed.Bilawal and Hameed Khan converted their penalties for SSGC.For KRL Waseem Shehzad, Mohammad Shahid, Yasir Afridi and dangerous Umair Ali hit goals from the spot.Earlier, it was a tough game with both sides making concerted efforts to get onto the scoresheet.
In the 17th minute, Mohammad Lal put SSGC ahead through a fine effort and the Karachi-based side kept that lead till interval.After half-time, KRL brought discipline in their ranks but were unable to create more chances.
In the 83rd minute, KRL came very close to equalising but their prolific international winger Rizwan Asif squandered an easy chance inside the area.However, Umair Ali soon struck through a super left-footer that went past the diving keeper in the 87th minute to make it 1-1 which lasted till the final whistle.
“It was a great comeback from my boys,” KRL manager Ayaz Butt told ‘The News’.“SSGC are also a good side but they played with a sort of fear and were always on the defensive,” Butt said.
Ayaz’s side will now meet in the December 10 final with the winners of the second semi-final which will be held on Friday (today) between Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and Chaman’s Muslim Trading Company.
SSGC coach Tariq Lutfi said that his side had entered into the event without any proper camp.
“I had earlier told you that we had come to the event without any formal camp. KRL on the other hand always hold proper camp and this time too they had come with great preparation. And taking lead against such a side and holding it till the last three minutes was not a bad effort from my brigade,” Tariq said.
“KRL’s Umair is a good player and he got the chance to hurt us. Today Bilawal was not fully fit. Jadeed Khan also went out in the first half due to injury. Our key player Saadullah is playing in the Maldives and we were also missing our defender Mohammad Naveed due to injury,” Tariq explained.
Tariq said that he had been trying to induct a few junior players in order to prepare a balanced side. SSGC have recently recruited a few international boys, to make the team fit for second-tier league.
“Playing with such established sides like KRL will benefit our team and I am confident that when we play in the B-Division league, we will face no problem,” the coach explained. Ihsanullah, a former KPT keeper, served under the cage for SSGC in the event’s most absorbing contest. Younis Lal supervised the match witnessed by a huge crowd.