Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: Railways and Quetta’s Baloch FC were promoted to the Pakistan Premier Football League after they beat Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) and Quetta’s Milli Afghan FC, respectively, in their last outings of the PFF League B Division on Saturday.
Railways had been relegated to the second tier competition in 2007-08 and Baloch FC in 2004.
Both the outfits, who won departmental and club legs of the second tier slots, will now face each other in the final for which the date and venue is yet to be announced.
In the last show of the ‘group of five’ round for departments, Railways edged well-prepared SSGC 2-1 after a sweating affair here at the KPT Stadium.
It was a do-or-die game for both sides as in case of a draw Higher Education Commission (HEC) would have risen to the top league on the basis of their better goal-average.
In the first half, SSGC had the upper hand but surprisingly they failed to convert ten easy chances. Two of SSGC’s shots crashed the pole. Railways also squandered a couple of opportunities.
After the barren first half, Railways got onto the score-sheet through Mohammad Usman Zafar in the 61st minute.
In the 75th minute referee Abdul Ghafoor awarded a controversial penalty to SSGC and Imran Senior struck an equaliser on rebound after Railways keeper punched back the kick from the spot.
The referee’s decision sparked protest in Railways camp but technical official Shakoor Baloch brought the situation under control.
Naveed Ashraf struck the winner in the 83rd minute with a well-connected header.
“I congratulate all my players who worked extremely hard and played with dedication throughout the tournament,” Railways coach Mohammad Rasheed told ‘The News’. “I trained them well, which paid the dividends in the end.”
He admitted that luck also favoured them. “We were lucky today as our rivals also played well,” Rasheed said.
He said that he would try his best to form a strong side for the next year’s Premier League. “I think the next year’s Premier League will be tough and for that we will have to prepare a better team. In order to achieve our objectives we will need the support of our top authorities,” said Rasheed.
Around 70 percent of Railways’ players are employed, but the rest have been kept on low stipends. Rasheed said that he would like the remaining boys to also get jobs in Railways.
SSGC’s coach Mohammad Javed was disappointed. “I am really disappointed as we missed so many chances. We had prepared a good team but luck did not favour us,” he said.
SSGC have 23 players, all hired on contract but with smart salaries. A source in the team said he feared five to six players might lose their jobs after the loss.
Earlier, in a dead-rubber of the ‘group of five’ round of the departmental leg at the same venue, Karachi United came from three goals down to hold Police to a 3-3 draw. Muneeb Ahmed struck in the 12th and 36th minutes to put Police 2-0 ahead. Asadullah hit the third for Police in the 72nd minute. Karachi United came back strongly, scoring three goals inside ten minutes to level the score.
Wasim Abdul Salam, Sameer and Umar hit goals for KU in the 80th, 83rd and 89th minutes, respectively.
At Layyah, in the vital ‘group of three’ game in the club leg, Quetta’s Baloch FC defeated Quetta’s Milli Afghan FC 2-0 to return to the Premier League.