Alam Zeb Safi [The News]
KARACHI: National Youth B, the SAFF Under-16 Cup champions, played impressively before going 0-3 down against the country’s top team WAPDA in their Group A opener of the KPT National Football Challenge Cup 2012 here at the KPT Stadium on Monday.
Despite missing their six key players, including skipper Muneer Aftab, prolific striker Mansoor Khan and vice-captain Malik Dilshad, the colts, who beat India in the final to win the SAFF Cup in Nepal last year, showed glimpses of a glorious talent and impressed the experts watching the game.
The young lot, which was included in the domestic event along with the national Under-19 team for the sake of exposure, initially maintained tight control, but due to their weak physical and mental abilities failed to bear pressure against a highly experienced team.
The youth got a few good goal scoring chances, but failed to capitalise. After conceding two goals in the first half, the youngsters showed more grit in the second half by creating a few fine rallies.
WAPDA broke the deadlock in the 33rd minute through Muhammad Ahmad before skipper Arif Mehmood struck twice—in the 40th minute on penalty and in the 90th minute through a fine cross from Zulfiqar.
“The youth side looked impressive but they had problems in their finishing,” WAPDA skipper Arif Mehmood told ‘The News’. “We had planned to score a few goals in the first half. Had the youngsters taken lead against us, it could have created problems for us,” Arif said.
The colts coach Sajjad Mehmood was, however, satisfied with his team’s performance. “The boys played very well. The finishing looked a bit weak as we missed four or five chances. But I hope that in the next game against Navy the team will play much better. Had we not missed six good players, it could have been a different story,” Sajjad said.
Former Pakistan captain Mohammad Essa also hailed the youngsters’ fine performance. “They looked impressive. They had good control on the ball and I hope that these youngsters will deliver for the country in future,” Essa said.
In Group D clash here at the People’s Sports Complex, former national champions Army snatched a 1-0 win against Railways. Muhammad Rashid scored the lone goal of the game through a header in the 32nd minute.
“It was a close win but I hope that in the next matches we will improve our performance,” Army skipper Jaffar Khan said.In another Group D show at the same venue, Pak PWD defeated Pakistan Air Force (PAF) 2-0 to take three crucial points. Goalkeeper Sajid provided Pak PWD lead in the 13th minute on penalty before Muhammad Zubair doubled it in the 21st minute to take the game away from the underdogs Railways.
Today’s fixtures: KRL v National Youth A (KPT Stadium 2:00pm), NBP v Police (Peoples Sports Complex, 2:00pm), KESC v Gawadar Port Authority (KPT Stadium, 4:15pm).