NBP crowned National Challenge Cup champions

KARACHI: Striker Mohammad Asif’s late goal helped National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) lift the title when they defeated Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) 1-0 in the final of the National Football Challenge Cup at the Dring Stadium in Bahawalpur on Sunday night.

Following a tough game, Asif finally emerged as the hero for the bankers when he scored the winner in the 81st minute.

This is only the second major title triumph for National Bank in their long football history. They had to wait for this moment for almost two decades as they had won their only major crown way back in 1993 when they had defeated Pakistan Steel in the final of the Pakistan Inter-Departmental Championship.

“It was a splendid victory and a dream come true,” National Bank coach Nasir Ismail told ‘The News’ after the finale.

“I had told you that this ground is lucky for me. When National Bank had won the departmental championship in 1993, I was serving the team as a player. Today we won the Challenge Cup and I am acting as the coach,” Nasir said.

“It was a great team effort and the whole credit goes to the boys and especially the skipper Abdul Aziz who led from the front,” said the coach.

“Our video analyst also played a key role in the success. We used to show the videos to the players after every match. By doing so their weaknesses were removed,” Nasir revealed.

“Our keeper Mohammad Omar played excellently today and saved a couple of one-to-one chances,” the coach said.

Nasir said the title victory would help his side in the Premier League also. “The win will have a good impact on our players in the Premier League also as they will feel that they will have to maintain their standard and prestige and will play with motivation,” Nasir said.

KESC coach Akber Ali was disappointed by the defeat. “You know again it was our bad luck as we missed so many chances,” Akbar said.

Earlier, in the first half both sides played composed game, never allowing each other the opportunity to take the lead.

After the breather they played with a relatively fast pace, but failed to get any solid goal-scoring chance. It was only in the end that Asif struck for the bankers to shatter KESC’s dreams.

This was the third consecutive time that KESC failed to win the final.

They had lost to Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in the finals of the last two editions of the Challenge Cup in 2011 and 2012.

The winners National Bank were handed over a glittering trophy and Rs300,000, the runners up KESC went away with a trophy and a purse of Rs200,000, while the bronze medalists Pakistan Air Force (PAF) got Rs100,000.

Striker Kaleemullah from KRL received the leading scorer award, while the best player award went to PAF’s striker Mohammad Mujahid and National Bank’s Mohammad Omar was adjudged the best goalie.

Irshad-ul-Haq of Sheikhupura was declared the best referee, while Mohammad Shahid from Okara was adjudged as the best assistant referee.

by Alam Zeb Safi [The News]