Lahore: International defender Mohammad Ahmed’s second half goal enabled Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) to defend their title when they beat spirited National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) 1-0 in the final of the PFF Cup 2016 at Punjab Stadium in Lahore on Monday.
Ahmed, who has also played for Issa Town FC in Bahrain’s league, struck in the 75th minute to bring in the sixth title for the country’s most successful outfit.
KRL also won the event in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015.
KRL coach Sajjad Mehmood was jubilant. “It’s a very important win for us as we did not have the cream which has transferred to other departments,” Sajjad told ‘The News’ after his fourth title as a coach.
Under the supervision of Sajjad, KRL won the crown in 2009, 2010 and 2015.
In 2011 and 2012 KRL got the title under their highly experienced coach Tariq Lutfi who last year severed ties with the department.
“It was a tough game as both sides played well. In the first half, our striker Murtaza Hussain could have struck but he was pulled by NBP defender just outside the area. It was a clear penalty but the referee signaled for a foul and showed NBP defender only yellow card,” he said.
“In the second half, our team had the upper hand. In the last few minutes we squandered around six open net chances,” the coach said.
NBP coach Nasir Ismail said it was a good game. “It was a fine match, no doubt,” he told this correspondent.
“My team played as per plan. We had mostly juniors in the side while KRL had not only two professional players but they also had come to the tournament after a long camp,” Nasir said.
“But still reaching the final is a big achievement for us. I am happy with the way my team played,” said Nasir, who has served as Pakistan’s assistant coach.
He also blamed referee for his team’s fall. “The refereeing standard was extremely poor. Irshad-ul-Haq denied us a clear penalty when KRL goalkeeper Saqib Hanif charged our striker Adnan Nazar in the first half when he dribbled past Saqib,” Nasir revealed.
“Had we scored at that time it could have put pressure on KRL,” the NBP coach said.
He also criticised the Technical Study Group’s (TSG) decision of awarding the best goalkeeper award to KRL’s Saqib Hanif.
“Saqib conceded two goals while our keeper Mohammad Omar conceded only one. Omar also saved three penalties in the quarter-final. How would a player be encouraged when such decisions are taken!” Nasir said. “The best player award was also not given to the deserving player,” he said.
“But overall it was a good event and I hail PFF administrator Asad Muneer for this excellent job,” Nasir said.
Punjab’s Minister for Excise and Taxation Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman distributed the prizes. Also present on the occasion were PFF administrator Justice (retd) Asad Munir, PFF acting secretary Col Farasat Ali Shah, Pervez Saeed Mir, PFF congress member Zahir Ali Shah and PFF acting president Arshad Khan Lodhi.
KRL were handed over a trophy and a purse of Rs300,000, while NBP went away with the runners-up trophy and Rs200,000. The bronze medalists PAF got Rs100,000. Police were awarded the fair-play trophy and Rs50,000.
Mansoor Khan (PAF) was declared the best player and Saqib Hanif (KRL) the best goal keeper. They got Rs25,000 each.
Irshad-ul-Haq was given the best referee award of Rs15,000. Waheed Murad got richer by Rs10,000 after being declared as the best assistant referee.