LAHORE: At the start of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Cup, Karachi United’s aim was to get through to the final round from the qualifying round. Now, it seems, they’ve exceeded expectations.
Second-division United booked their place in the quarter-finals of the PFF Cup on Saturday with a nerve-raking 3-2 victory over fellow Pakistan Football Federation League (PFFL) side Saif Textiles on Saturday to secure second place in Group ‘A’ behind Pakistan Army.
With Army beating Karachi Port Trust (KPT) 2-1, a draw would’ve put United through but victory was especially sweet for head coach Adeel Rizki ahead of their last-eight clash against Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
“Qualifying for the quarters is a massive achievement for the club,” Rizki told Dawn after the match at the Fame Football Club Ground in Lahore. “This will now set the bar for the future.”
PAF had already clinched top spot in the three-team Group ‘D’ with the final match of the section on Saturday seeing Bhatti United prevail 5-3 in a penalty shootout against Pakistan Railways after a goalless draw to seal second place and a quarter-final date against Army.
But the day was about exploits of the United from Karachi.
United needed a win to be sure of a last-eight spot and began aggressively against Saif Textiles with three goals disallowed in the opening 15 minutes for offside.
They did eventually take the lead in the 18th minute when Ali Reza turned in Fazal Mohammad’s cross.
Saif Textiles, who ended their campaign without a win, levelled on the stroke of half-time when United goalkeeper Javed Bangash allowed Saif Tex captain Usman Ghani Virk’s shot to go through his hands.
Fazal put United back in front five minutes into the second half with a brilliant solo effort when he went past two defenders but Saif Textiles levelled matters again in the 64th when Usman Virk set up substitute Waqas Ali.
But United came back again eight minutes later, Sameer Baloch scoring off a rebound to help his side finish with six points, three behind Army.
“The players truly deserve this as they’ve worked hard all year to be able to compete and perform in a tournament like this,” Rizki said. “We will continue to push forward.”
At the Raiders Football Club Ground in Lahore, Army needed Ghulam Rasool’s 86th minute strike to overcome KPT.
Ansar Abbas had put Army ahead in the 24th but Mohammad Baloch had equalised for KPT three minutes later.
On Sunday, the final two quarter-final berths will be decided with all four teams in contention from Group ‘B’.
Second-division Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) stunned Wapda 2-1 on Friday to take pole position in the group with four points ahead of the final round of matches.
Wapda are on three points, as are Pakistan Police who had an upset 2-0 win over Pakistan Navy (one point) on Friday.
SSGC will face Police while Wapda will clash with Navy.
The quarter-finalists from Group ‘C’ have already been decided with Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) and National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) set to fight it out for top spot in the section on Sunday.
Both have two wins out of two after KRL edged Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) 1-0 on Friday with NBP beating Ashraf Sugar Mills by the same scoreline.