By Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: Atif’s first half goal guided Habib Bank Limited (HBL) to a narrow 1-0 victory over struggling Nushki’s Baloch FC in a vital game of the Pakistan Premier Football League here at the Korangi Baloch Football Ground in Sharafi Goth on Wednesday.
Atif, who also missed a handful of easy chances, struck the winner in the 11th minute.
The victory, their fifth in the season, moved HBL to 21 points after 19 matches. But in spite of the result they are still in the relegation zone and will need a great effort to avoid demotion to the PFF B Division.
“Yes, we are in trouble but today’s win was very important for us and I hope that we will make a comeback,” HBL manager Yousuf Khan told ‘The News’. “We need at least six wins from the remaining 11 matches,” Yousuf added.
The loss left Baloch FC at 15 points after 19 outings. The statistics indicate that Baloch FC will not be able to avoid relegation as six teams who end at the bottom will go down this season.
“Yes, we are in deep trouble and it seems difficult to escape relegation,” Baloch FC coach Khalid Nawaz told this correspondent.
He said his players were under pressure. “You know after the incident at the KPT Stadium in which a few players were injured, our players were under pressure today,” Khalid said.
HBL had the upper hand from the start and got onto the score-sheet in the 11th minute when Atif hit on a rebound.
Baloch FC’s players Sher Zaman and Mohammad Ibrahim strongly protested against the decision of the referee Abdul Ghafoor as according to them it was a clear off-side. Both players were seen telling the match commissioner Iqbal Junior on the sideline that the player who had first attempted a drive and which came as rebound was a clear off-side.
The referee did not look in control of the situation and made some other lapses as well during the match.
In the dying moments of the first half Atif could have doubled HBL’s lead as he needed only to beat keeper Sher Zaman but he failed to do so.
At half time, HBL were leading 1-0.
In the second half too, HBL had the upper hand but Atif and Mubashir missed easy chances in 87th and 88th minutes, to the surprise of their management.
“We should have won with four or five goals as you saw we missed so many chances,” said Yousuf, who looked happy after the win that has given his team the hope of retaining a spot in the top league for the next season.
In the second half, the fourth official Irshad was seen talking to a Baloch FC player, questioning him whether he wanted to play or quarrel.
A Baloch FC’s substitute was seen wearing a shirt on which one figure of its number was inked with a pen.
Today’s fixtures: PACA v Navy (Korangi Baloch Stadium, Karachi), Muslim FC v Army (KMC Stadium, Karachi), KPT v PAF (KPT Stadium, Karachi).