PIA draw throws KESC out of title race

KARACHI: Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) were put out of the title race when they were held by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to a 2-2 draw in their vital game of the 9th Pakistan Premier Football League held here at the Korangi Baloch Football Ground in Sharafi Goth on Monday.

KESC, who were playing their do-or-die game, failed to live up to the expectations when PIA recovered from two goals down to hold them after a tough fight on the lush green pitch.

“Yes, we are now out of the title contention, but we will try to fight for the second spot,” KESC’s dejected manager Hasan Baloch told ‘The News’ after the match supervised by referee Younis Lal.

“For the second spot, too, we will have to work hard as we are to play tougher sides.

“It’s really disappointing for us as the team was playing extremely well and we had scored two early goals,” Hasan said.

“We squandered too many chances and especially Rasool missed a sitter and the miserable run was compounded by Abdul Salam who missed a couple of open net chances,” Hasan conceded.

KESC had to face the brunt of the absence of their skipper Mohammad Essa who has missed a handful of games due to a knee injury.

Hangu-born midfielder Mohammad Riaz put KESC comfortably placed with his double when he struck in the sixth and 13th minutes.

But PIA were awarded a penalty in the 25th minute and substitute midfielder Abdul Ghaffar, commonly known as toto, did not make any mistake from the spot and reduced the deficit.

At half time, KESC were leading 2-1. After the breather, PIA played even better, containing their rivals and were able to bring an equaliser through Zeeshan Ali who converted another penalty in the 57th minute.

At this stage, KESC went all out but failed to strike due to poor finishing.

“We had fielded a weak team in the first half as we wanted to give chance to youngsters,” PIA coach Shamim Khan told this correspondent.

“But after the breather, we sent in Nasrullah and then Shakir Lashari who helped the team bring the parity,” said Shamim, also a former international.

It were PIA who in fact expelled KESC from the title contention as they held them twice inside three days. The other day here at the KPT Stadium PIA had held KESC 1-1, which had left them in utter dismay and the latter bullet fired by PIA eliminated one of the hot favourites who were fighting for their maiden title. The single point inflated KESC’s tally to 56 points from 27 meetings while PIA moved to 32 points from 27 appearances.

Now the fight for the title will be between two-time defending champions KRL and former two-time champions Army.

KRL lead the table with 59 points from 24 games, while Army have 51 points from 24 meetings.

Today’s fixtures: HBL v Army (Peoples Sports Complex, Karachi), NBP v WAPDA (KPT Stadium, Karachi).

by Alam Zeb Safi [The News]