by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: Sardar Abbas struck in the stoppage time to enable Ashraf Sugar Mills (ASM) FC to stun experienced National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) FC 1-0 in their Group A opener of the PFF National Challenge Cup which commenced here at the KPT Sports Complex on Saturday.
Sardar hit the winner just before final whistle when he dribbled past before beating goalie Mohammad Umar to gift three crucial points to the Bahawalpur side.
Soon after, ASM also missed an open goal before NBP squandered their fifth chance. Earlier in the start of the game, NBP got a penalty but Maqbool’s slow drive was smartly saved by ASM goalie Arbaz Ali who leaped towards his right. Both NBP and their rivals kept aggressive display but squandered plenty of chances.
“The missed penalty in the start brought down the morale of the boys,” NBP coach Nasir Ismail told ‘The News’.
“Both sides got chances but we could not avail and that hurt us in the end,” Nasir said.
ASM coach Najeebullah Najmi was happy with his team’s effort.
“I have recently joined the team but the boys made brave effort against an experienced side,” Najmi said. Former K-Electric’s Nigerian players Sunday and Willson also witnessed the match.
“NBP are an experienced side and they should not have rushed,” Sunday said.
KRL FC have been the most successful outfit of the competitions with five titles to their credit.
The event will also see some new clubs including the newly-formed Quetta-based Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) FC, Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) FC, Quetta’s Falcon FC and Hazara Col FC.
Army will play their highly experienced goalkeeper Jaffar Khan who has a record of remaining unbeaten for 16 matches under the cage in the 2006 Premier League.
In the 20-day affair, as many as 24 outfits are set to show their worth. The outfits have been bracketed in eight different groups. The leading side from each group will qualify for the quarter-finals to be held from May 3 to 6. The semi-finals will be conducted on May 7 and 8 with the third position outing on May 9, followed by the final on May 10.
Earlier, Sindh Football Association’s (SFA) President Khadim Ali Shah formally announced the event opened. Also present were Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Col (retd) Ahmed Yar Lodhi, PFF Deputy General Secretary Fahad Khan, PFF Director League Development and Club Licensing Shahid Khokhar and former Pakistan captain Col Changezi.
The matches of Group A, B, C and D would be held at All Brothers Football Club ground in Malir, while KPT Sports Complex would host the encounters of Group E, F, G and H.
This is after a lapse of three years that the event is being organised. The conflict between Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) and its rival group headed by Arshad Lodhi destroyed the game for three years that stifled Pakistan’s both international and domestic engagements.
On Sunday (today), KPT FC will face PWD FC in Group E, in Group F WAPDA FC will meet Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) and the 2015 runners-up Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) FC will take on the 2008 winners Navy.
Group A: NBP FC, Falcon FC, Ashraf Sugar Mills FC,
Group B: PIA FC, Navy FC, Hazara FC,
Group C: PAF FC, Police FC, State Life FC,
Group D: KRL FC, Sindh Government Press FC, Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) FC,
Group E: KPT FC, PWD FC, Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) FC,
Group F: WAPDA FC, SSGC FC, Karachi United FC,
Group G: Army FC, GPA FC, POF FC, Group H: K-Electric FC, SNGPL, Asia Ghee Mills FC.