Mehmood shines as KRL extend lead at top

Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

KARACHI: Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) ended the first round of the Pakistan Premier Football League with a decent lead at the top after pulling off their ninth win in ten matches with a 2-1 victory over National Bank while struggling WAPDA got some relief after conquering Karachi Port Trust (KPT) 3-2 here on Thursday.

At the People’s Sports Complex, KRL made a strong comeback after going a goal down to dislodge National Bank to end their first round before Ramadan with 28 points from ten meetings while the bankers closed the phase with 15 points from eight games.

A free-kick from Abbas Ali gave the bankers the lead in the 31st minute but KRL pulled one back through substitute Saadullah who volleyed in a rasping shot from 25 yards in the 49th. Hasnain Abbas, who also played in World Cup qualifiers, struck the winner on an excellent pass from Mehmood Khan.

“We achieved our target in the first round. I had rested few players but we did a fine job. Now, we’ll go into the second phase with even more confidence,” KRL coach Tariq Lutfi told ‘The News’.

National Bank coach Nasir Ismail said the performance of KRL playmaker Mehmood Khan took the game away from his team.

“We had completely marked Mehmood but as soon marking got a little loose, he took full advantage of it,” Nasir said.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) referees recruiter Salem Saeed Salem R Binhazim Al Saudi of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) keenly watched FIFA referee Khurram Shehzad during the game. Later he also interviewed the Kohat-born referee.

At the KPT Stadium, holders WAPDA took their points to 14 from ten outings while KPT have nine points from seven meetings.

Zeeshan Javed opened the scoring for WAPDA through a header on corner-kick from Khuda Bakhsh in the 30th minute. Their jubilations had not yet subsided when Zafar Majeed levelled the game for KPT. Eight minutes into the second-half, Zeeshan Javed struck his second to put WAPDA 2-1 ahead before Zafar Majeed completed his brace with an equaliser for KPT in the 63rd. WAPDA then landed the winner through substitute midfielder Imran Niazi in injury-time.

Former champions Army outgunned Police 3-2 at the Sadiq Shaheed Stadium in Quetta to take their tally to 13 from ten matches while Police have 12 points from seven appearances.

Sharjeel Vicky, Akhtar Hussain and Mohammad Ikram struck one goal apiece to put Army on front foot with 3-0 lead at half time. In the second-half, Police reduced the deficit to 2-3 through Gul Daraz in the 63rd minute and Sher Zaman’s penalty in the 75th.

Today’s fixtures: Baloch FC v Afghan FC (Nushki Football Stadium, Nushki, Balochistan), PIA v HBL (KPT Stadium, Karachi).