Alam Zeb Saif
KARACHI: Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) coach Tariq Lutfi said on Wednesday that his team were fully prepared for the AFC President’s Cup finals, which will be held at Dushanbe Central Stadium in Tajikistan from September 24 to 30.
“The team have played six Premier League matches and the boys look set to perform well in the final round of the President’s Cup,” Lutfi told ‘The News’ in an interview from Islamabad.
A 24-member contingent, 19 players and five officials, is expected to fly from the federal capital for Dushanbe on Friday or Saturday.
“Our main target is to make it to the September 30 final. We played against the defending champions Taiwan Power Company in our group in Lahore and that team did not disturb us in that goalless draw,” added Lutfi, a former Pakistan coach.
KRL have been placed in Group B with holders Taiwan Power Company of Chinese Taipei and debutants Al Amma’ri Club of Palestine.
There are two groups for the finals: A and B. One team from each pool will qualify for the final.
The first game of Group B will be held between Taiwan Power Company and Al Amma’ri Club on September 24 and KRL will face Taiwan Power Company on September 26. On September 28, KRL will take on Al Amma’ri Club. The last year’s runners-up Phnom Penh Crown of Cambodia have been placed in Group A with Tajikistan’s Istiklol FC and the six-time finalists Dordoi Dynamo of Kyrgyzstan.
Dordoi were the winners in 2006 and 2007 and runners-up in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Dordoi will lock horns with Istiqlol FC on September 24. Phnom Penh Crown of Cambodia will take on Dordoi on September 26. On September 28, Istiklol FC will meet Phnom Penh Crown.
Lutfi feels that his team’s finishing is weak. “I feel that we are not scoring as our frontline has missed several open net chances in the Premier League. But if Kaleemullah and Saddam Hussain recover from injuries we will have a good chance of qualifying for the final,” said Lutfi.
The coach was also not satisfied with the overall preparation. “I think we have not prepared the way we should have. It’s fifty-fifty. You know we are playing in the Premier League and also preparing for the AFC President’s Cup. We have tried in the Premier League to save our players from injuries, but you know we are also part of the system and will have to go with it,” the coach lamented.
Lutfi noted that KRL rivals would play the first match, which would give him an opportunity to watch them. “It is good that we will watch both of our rivals playing the first group game, so we will know their strength and will also see where we stand,” the coach said.
He hailed his goalkeeping department, particularly Saqib. “I think we have good glovemen and particularly Saqib who has now played several international matches and looks more mature,” added Lutfi.
KRL and Taiwan Power Company qualified for the final round from Group A first round held in Lahore in May.
Squad: Samar Ishaq (captain), Kamran Khan (vice-captain), Saqib Hanif, Shahid Nabi, Tanvir Mumtaz (all three goalkeepers), Mehmood Khan, Dilwar-ur-Rehamn, Ahsanullah, Zeeshan, Mohammad Abid, Yasir Afridi, Mohammad Aadil, Zia-us-Salam, Mohammad Qasim, Hasnain Abbas, Kaleemullah, Saadullah, Saddam Hussain, Rizwan Ahmad, Officials: Tariq Lutfi (head coach), Sajjad Mehmood (assistant coach), Ayaz Butt (manager), Mohammad Ali (media officer), Mohammad Shahid (physiotherapist).