Umaid Wasim – DAWN
KARACHI, Nov 29: The latest installment of the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL)-Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) soccer contests produced a dull draw.
The two teams met in an eagerly-anticipated fixture of the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) season on Friday here at the Korangi Baloch Stadium but shared the spoils in a goalless stalemate.
And Pakistan coach Mohammad Al-Shamlan, witnessing the match, wasn’t impressed by the performance of both the teams. “Is this a game between the two top teams of the country?” he questioned. “…doesn’t seem like it.”
The draw meant last season’s runners-up KESC stayed second in the standings with 33 points from 16 matches, three behind leaders Muslim FC who have played 20 games so far.
Two-time defending champions have played just 10 games so far and have 19 points.
Elsewhere, Wapda moved up to third in the table after a 2-1 victory over Habib Bank Limited (HBL) helped them inflate their points tally to 29 from 16 matches.
National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), meanwhile, edged past second-bottom Baloch FC 1-0 to move up to 25 points from 18 matches.
The big match of the day — arguably the biggest of the season — was at the Korangi Baloch Stadium.
KESC are looking to secure a maiden PPFL title and all the pre-game hype was about their new signing, Nigerian striker Oludeyi Abayomi Sunday.
Abayomi, however, arrived late on Thursday night and couldn’t take part because of some missing paperwork.
KRL struggled to find the groove they so effectively did last season and the year before and despite bossing possession and chances, couldn’t find a way past a KESC side beset by injuries.
“It’s a good point for us,” KESC coach Akbar Ali told Dawn after the match. “We have several players out with injuries and we managed to hold KRL to a draw which is good.
“What was important was that we didn’t lose because it would’ve meant losing ground on Muslim FC.”
KRL came into the match on the back of a 1-0 loss to NBP and their ace winger Mohammad Adil said it was vital they didn’t lose.
“We went into the match thinking we can’t lose it,” Adil told Dawn. “It’s a good draw. Usually matches against KESC are tough and it’s good that we got a point.”
On KRL’s inability to open up defences, which they did at will last season, Adil added: “Our opponents usually come with a mindset to defend against us and don’t allow us any room. Luck isn’t by our side either because the chances we do get don’t go in.”
At the KPT Stadium, Arif Mehmood’s double helped Wapda inflict a third defeat in four games on HBL.
Arif opened the scoring in the fourth minute before doubling Wapda’s lead in the 67th. Akhtar got HBL back in the game with an 86th-minute strike but they couldn’t force the equaliser as they remain on 21 points from 20 games.
Fresh from scoring the winner in NBP’s victory over KRL in their previous match, 14-year-old striker Munir Ahmed scored another decisive goal to help his side scrape past Baloch FC.
Munir struck three minutes from time to condemn Baloch FC to their second straight defeat which meant they remain on 15 points from 20 matches.
Meanwhile, the second division Pakistan Football Federation League (PFFL) kicked off on Friday with the opening match of the departmental phase being played at the Punjab University New Campus Ground in Lahore.
Higher Education Commission (HEC) took early control of qualifying Group ‘D’ when first-half goals by Saqib, Umair and Rashid helped them to a 3-0 triumph over Pakistan Television (PTV).