KARACHI: Star striker Kaleemullah’s lone goal on Monday put Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in the quarter-finals with a narrow 1-0 win against Habib Bank Limited (HBL) in their crucial Group A game of the National Football Challenge Cup at the Dring Stadium in Bahawalpur.
After getting a through pass, Kaleem dribbled past a row of defenders and in the end nestled it comfortably in the fast post. “Although we won it but missed at least six goals which is not a good sign,” KRL coach Tariq Lutfi said.
In the quarter-finals, KRL, who with the victory emerged as group champions, will take on the losers of the PAF-National Bank match which was to be played late Monday night.
Earlier, in the same group, Bahawalpur’s Ashraf Sugar Mills defeated Pak Afghan Clearing Agency (PACA) 4-1, their consolation victory. It was altogether an impossible task for Ashraf Sugar Mills to qualify for the quarter-finals as they needed to beat PACA by ten goals margin. PACA, who ensured their berth after inflicting a 2-1 upset defeat on holders KRL the other day, rested their skipper Maaz, Abdul Nasir and Ahmad Shah in order to help them to recover from minor injuries ahead of their quarter-final which they will play against the winners of the NBP-PAF match.
After a tough game, it were Ashraf Sugar Mills who got onto the score-sheet through Azeem in the 41st minute. Two minutes after the breather Ashraf Sugar Mills doubled their lead through Shehbaz Ahmad before Naved Khan hit for them the third in the 53rd minute to bring PACA under an immense pressure.
Sirajuddin landed one back for struggling PACA in the 78th minute. But ten minutes latter Shehbaz Ahmad netted his second to help Ashraf Sugar Mills to seal a comfortable triumph.
In Group D match Umair Ali scored a double hat-trick to guide Higher Education Commission (HEC) to their consolation 6-1 victory against hosts District Football Association (DFA) Bahawalpur, who ended without getting any point.
Umair, who is the key player and according to eye witnesses scored goals like Argentina’s striker Lionel Messi, scored goals in the 46th, 48th, 52nd, 59th, 78th and 85th minutes. This was the second double hat-trick from any player in the tournament so far. Kaleemullah from KRL had done so in his team’s 8-0 victory over Ashraf Sugar Mills in their Group A opener.
Arsalaan scored the only goal for Bahawalpur in the 72nd minute.
On Sunday night, the two-time Premier League champions Army overcame resolute Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) 2-1 to qualify for the quarter-finals from Group C. National Under-18 team had already made it to the knock-out stage from the same group.
After a goalless first half, Tanvir Shahid put Army ahead in the 47th minute before Zafarullah Javed doubled their lead in the 82nd minute. Pakistan International Airlines reduced the deficit just before the final whistle.
Army will face WAPDA while National Under-18 team will be pitted against Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) in the first two quarter-finals to be conducted at 7:00pm and 9:45pm respectively on Tuesday (today).