Umaid Wasim – DAWN
KARACHI, Sept 23: Tariq Lutfi couldn’t hide his delight after his Khan Research Laboratories side got arguably their biggest result in the AFC President’s Cup.
“It’s a massive result for us,” Lutfi told Dawn from the Malaysian state of Malacca after seeing his side edge two-time champions Dordoi Bishkek 1-0 in their opening Group ‘B’ game at the Hang Jebat Stadium on Monday.
“The team played an extraordinary game,” the former Pakistan coach added. “Our star players Mohammad Adil, Samar Ishaq, Saddam Hussain and Kaleemullah didn’t let us down.”
Kaleemullah it was who netted the winner in the 76th minute of the game.
Victory for KRL put them in pole position to finish top in the group and become the first side from Pakistan to reach the final of Asia’s third-tier club competition.
They now face Hilal Al-Quds in their second game on Friday with Dordoi playing the Palestinian side on Wednesday.
“We’ve got a realistic chance of reaching the final and maybe even winning it,” Lutfi said. “It will be a momentous occasion for Pakistan football if we’re able to do that.”
Kyrgyzstan champions Dordoi, looking to seal a hat-trick of President’s Cup titles, started the game strongly against KRL but Pakistan captain Samar marshalled the back-line marvelously to keep them at bay.
A goalless first-half increased KRL’s confidence, with the two sides having drawn 1-1 in the preliminary group stage.
Adil and Saddam began probing the Dordoi defence with their incisive runs and crosses into the box and eventually it led to the winner when one of those balls found its way to Kaleem and the lethal marksman made no mistake in firing it past a despairing Pavel Matiash.
It was Kaleem’s sixth goal in the competition this season and moved him within three goals of Dordoi’s Mirlan Murzaev who endured a frustrating evening.
Meanwhile, Turkeminstan side Balkan FC got their Group ‘A’ campaign off to a winning start as they thrashed Nepal’s Three Star Club 6-0 in the earlier game.