By Umaid Wasim – DAWN
KARACHI: It was expected to be a battle right till the final whistle but it took K-Electric just 30 minutes to seal the outcome — and the title.
K-Electric clinched their maiden Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) crown on Friday after quick-fire goals by skipper Mohammad Essa and Oludeyi Abayomi Sunday gave them a 2-0 win over second-placed Pakistan Army, meaning they cannot now be caught at the top of the standings.
“It’s a relief to finally be able to win the PPFL,” former Pakistan captain Essa told Dawn after the match here at the Korangi Baloch Stadium.
“We’ve been runners-up for the last two seasons and there was a lot of pressure on us this season to deliver and thankfully we achieved our aim,” added the 31-year-old for whom it was the first league medal in a distinguished career which also saw him win gold twice at the SAF Games.
K-Electric went into the game with an eight-point lead at the top and knew a draw would see them take the title while Army, who had a game in hand over their opponents, needed to win to retain hope of snatching the crown.
But defeat saw them remain on 36 points from 19 matches and they cannot overhaul K-Electric (47) even if they were to win their last three games of the season.
K-Electric, also losing finalists in the National Challenge Cup for the last four years, entered the season with great expectation and pressure with the side boasting two Nigerian players in Sunday and Wilson.
Added to it was the fact that three-time defending champions Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) were in a rebuilding phase having seen five key players depart for newer pastures in the off-season.
There was slight pressure too when they took to the field on Friday for their first of three ‘title-points’ but superb early strikes by Essa and Sunday eased their nerves and settled the contest.
“The fast start was crucial for us,” K-Electric head-coach Hasan Baloch told Dawn. “We knew it was an important match for both sides and we couldn’t afford to sit back and give them a good start.”
Essa gave K-Electric the lead in the 14th minute, dribbling past a defender before placing his shot past the Army goalkeeper.
Sunday doubled their advantage on the half-hour mark. The Nigerian, signed last season before being joined by compatriot Wilson this season, picked the ball on the left before showing incredible acceleration to cut inside one defender before taking the ball past another and scoring with aplomb.
K-Electric were thankful to goalkeeper Ghulam Nabi for pulling off two saves in quick succession to preserve their lead.
He then pulled off an even better on minutes before half-time to deny Ansar Abbas scoring from a delightfully-taken free-kick. In the process, Nabi slammed his head on the post and needed to be stitched up in order to continue.
The second-half started in frenetic pace but the first clear chance came on the hour mark.
Mohammad Rasool, the league’s top-scorer, came close to netting his 23rd of the campaign but after going past the goalkeeper he could only find the side-netting.
That miss sparked a flurry of chances for K-Electric with Essa flashing just wide with the outside of his left foot and midfielder Mohammed Riaz shooting high from Rasool’s back-heel.
Army had a chance to pull one back late on but Ansar’s shot went wide before K-Electic erupted in celebration at the final whistle.
Published in Dawn January 10th , 2014