KARACHI: National Bank (NBP), Pakistan Air Force (PAF), Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) and WAPDA qualified for the quarter-finals of the National Football Challenge Cup in Bahawalpur.
In a Group D vital game on Saturday, NBP pushed Higher Education Commission (HEC) out of the event with a 2-0 victory against them to confirm their spot in the last eight.
NBP, who had crushed Bahawalpur 4-0 in their opener, took the field without skipper Abdul Aziz and Mohammad Ashfaq due to injury. The bankers, carrying several international players, got onto the score-sheet through Faisal Iqbal in the 30th minute before stand-in skipper Farooq Shah struck the second just one minute from full-time to seal a comfortable win.
“We needed a victory and the players did a fine job in the adverse conditions,” NBP coach Nasir Ismail told ‘The News’.
“I think it’s totally wrong to hold the event in such heat with the mercury touching almost touches 48 degrees Celsius,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the other encounter of the same group, PAF demolished hosts Bahawalpur 8-0 to make it to the quarter-finals.
Irfan Ali hit four goals in the 20th, 21st, 48th and 58th minutes. He was joined on the score-sheet by Arif Nawaz with a brace that came in the 36th and 78th minutes while skipper Mohammad Mujahid (75th minute) and substitute Rafiullah (87th minute) landed one goal apiece.
“Bahawalpur were weak and we did not face any trouble against them,” PAF coach Mohammad Arshad said.
“We will now be trying to beat National Bank in our last outing on Monday to avoid playing against Khan Research Laboratories in the quarter-finals,” Arshad added.
The output also expelled Bahawalpur from the tournament as it was their second straight loss.
In a Group B outing on Friday night, KESC came from behind to inflict a 2-1 defeat on Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) to cruise into the knock-out stage.
Imran shocked strong KESC with a fine goal in the 19th minute to put SSGC 1-0 ahead. At half time, SSGC were leading 1-0. After the breather, KESC skipper Mohammad Essa took the risk by taking the field despite injury and he was lucky as KESC struck twice inside five minutes to bring a much needed victory.
Defender Umar Farooq hit both the goals for KESC. Farooq hit the equaliser on rebound on Mohammad Essa’s corner-kick in the 64th minute before he headed one on cross from Mohammad Rasool in the 68th minute to bring a thrilling victory.
“It was a tough match,” KESC coach Akbar Ali said.
“We were 0-1 down but Essa took a brave decision by putting aside his injury and took the field in the second half that paid dividends as we scored two goals,” said Akbar.
In the second half, the venue plunged into darkness when electricity was suspended despite assurances from WAPDA authorities to the organisers. The match resumed after a 40-minute break.
The result also benefited record four-time Premier League champions WAPDA to qualify for the quarter-finals from the same group with six points.
KESC will now face WAPDA in their last group game on Sunday (today) which will decide the group champions.
Habib Bank were scheduled to face Bahawalpur’s Ashraf Sugar Mills while holders KRL were to fight against Pak Afghan Clearing Agency (PACA) in their Group A matches on Saturday night.