KARACHI: Umair Ali hit a solid treble to put Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in the semi-finals when they bulldozed Police 6-1 in the third quarter-final of the National Football Challenge Cup 2019 at the Tehmas Khan Stadium, Peshawar, on Wednesday.
This was the best victory by margin from any outfit in the 15-team event being held for the first time in Peshawar. “It was indeed a fine victory,” KRL manager Ayaz Butt told ‘The News’ after his charges’ terrific display in hot conditions.
Peshawar is the hottest city in Pakistan with mercury touching 40 degree Celsius these days. Umair put the most successful side of the Challenge Cup ahead in the 45th second–the fastest goal of the event.
Police, however, bounced back strongly when they brought an equaliser through Mohammad Yousuf in the 40th minute. Four minutes later, Umair once again provided KRL the lead.
At half time, the Rawalpindi-based outfit was leading 2-1. After the interval, KRL displayed fine skills with Police boys failing to match their subtle display, conceding four more goals.
Zaid Umar extended KRL lead to 3-1 in the 53rd minute. Six minutes later, Mohammad Imran added to the misery of Police. Zeeshan Siddiqui made it 5-1 for KRL in the 80th minute and Umair completed his hat-trick in the 87th minute with a superb strike.
“We had an upper hand over Police due to good fitness of our players,” Butt said. “You know it’s very hot here. We kept our players 24 hours in air-conditioned rooms. No one is allowed to go out. We are also providing good diet to the boys. We have our own cook for the purpose,” Butt said.
He said that God has given his side a good goalkeeping coach in Aslam Khan who is doing a good job. “Aslam is no doubt a blessing for us. Our front-line goalie Tanveer Mumtaz was absent because of illness. We have recruited a young keeper Nasrullah from Loralai. Aslam has worked with him and he has been excellent under the cage. He is our main keeper,” Butt said.
KRL will face either Army or Navy in the semi-finals. Butt was confident of his team’s win in the semi-finals. “The way my team is performing I am confident we will qualify for the final. I will witness Army-Navy game. Army are much tougher and more disciplined than Navy. But when forces play against each other they really play a different game. When they come against us then their body language changes,” Butt said.
WAPDA and Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) have already qualified for the last-four stage. WAPDA had beaten defending champions Pakistan Air Force (PAF) 3-0 and SSGC had overpowered Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) 1-0 in their quarter-finals.
KRL are the most successful team of the event’s history, having won it in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016. Butt said that he had not kept four newly-inducted players in the side for this event. “I have recruited four more players recently and will keep them in the side for the Premier League. We are fully prepared for the league,” Butt said.
It is expected that the normalisation committee which is being formed by FIFA this month will conduct the Premier League, which could not be held for three consecutive years because of the conflict between two PFF factions.
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Pakistan Army beat Pakistan Navy in the 4th quarterfinal 2-0 thanks to extra time goals from Army captain Ansar Abbas and Zile Hasnain after a goalless 90 minutes.
Army now face KRL in the 2nd semifinal on 2 August.