KARACHI: Air Force climbed to the third spot after beating two-time champions Army 2-0 in their vital match of the Pakistan Premier Football League at the Model Town Football Academy Ground in Lahore on Wednesday.
Promising international striker Mansoor Khan put Air Force ahead with his solo effort in the 21st minute. International striker Mohammad Mujahid doubled their lead in the 52nd minute to complete the rout.
“I am very happy that the team played top game today,” Air Force coach Shehzad Anwar told ‘The News’ from Lahore. “We made a few forceful attacks but their keeper Mehmood Ahmed did a fine job to avert them,” said Shehzad, who had acted as head coach of Pakistan senior team at the SAFF Cup in Kathmandu last September.
Shehzad said that keeping in view the strong points of Army they had prepared a plan which worked well. “We did not even let our rivals get past the middle of the pitch; blocked them completely. Army did not have any outstanding striker in their side and that helped us,” said the AFC Licence A coach.
He also praised his keeper for making an acrobatic save. “Ghazanfar Yasin made a great save in the second half. He is a good young keeper and will get polished with the passage of time,” Shehzad said.
The victory, their ninth from 17 outings, took PAF to the third place with 33 points, well ahead of WAPDA and PIA on goal-average, who also have 33 points each.
Army’s skipper and goalie Mehmood Ahmed said it was not their day. “We did not click today. We squandered chances while our rivals converted theirs,” said Mehmood, who is acting both as captain and front-line keeper in the absence of the experienced Jaffar Khan, who is not playing the league because of a knee injury.
Mehmood said that they were not playing with their original squad. “We were missing our key players Masroor and Mustafa, who were out due to injuries, while Mubashir did not play due to suspension. A few days’ break that we will get now will help our players recover and we will come as a real force after the break,” Mehmood said.
A source told this correspondent that the Model Town Football Academy’s pitch was not good enough for matches. “There is no grass on the pitch as it has dried up completely. In spite of it the pitch was given water which made it slippery and the players had to face problems during the game,” said the source.
The loss left Army at 25 points after 16 appearances.There will be no more matches till December 22 because of the national camp which will start in Lahore on Thursday (today) under Pakistan’s Bahraini coach Mohammed Shamlan.
After the league, the PFF will send the name of the winning team to AFC, the continental football governing body, for the AFC President’s Cup. Although the last date for entry for the President’s Cup is December 31, Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has requested the AFC for extension.