PACA stun KRL to reach NFCC quarters

KARACHI: The national Under-18 team on Sunday beat Bhatti United 5-2 to blast their way into the quarter-finals of the National Football Challenge Cup at the Dring Stadium in Bahawalpur.

On Saturday night, Pak Afghan Clearing Agency (PACA) had pulled off a major upset when they shocked defending champions Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) 2-1 to reach the last eight.

In the Group C match, the national under-18 brigade eased to an easy victory against Faisalabad’s Bhatti United, their second win from three outings, to advance to the knock-out stage with seven points to their credit.

Mardan-born striker Mansoor Khan emerged as the hero for the winners with four goals in the 20th minute (penalty), 78th, 81st and 85th minutes.

He was joined on the scoresheet by Mohammad Riaz with a strike in the 11th minute. At one stage, the under-18 boys were leading 2-0 but Bhatti United brought parity through Adnan Butt (26th minute) and Mohammad Yasir (61st minute).

But Mansoor shattered the rivals’ hopes by hammering three goals inside seven minutes. “The team played extremely well,” national under-18 team coach Sajjad Mehmood told ‘The News’. “Although we conceded two goals that made the tie evenly poised, afterwards the boys played with solid approach that paid dividends,” said Sajjad, who had guided the same team to a title winning triumph at the inaugural Under-16 SAFF Cup in Nepal in 2011.

Saturday night witnessed the biggest upset when debutants PACA stunned KRL 2-1 to cruise into the last eight from Group A with four points and with a game against Ashraf Sugar Mills in hand.

Abdul Hadi put PACA ahead in the 19th minute before Siraj Uddin doubled their lead on the stroke of half time.

In the second half KRL went all out but managed only one goal, through Kaleemullah in the 69th minute. “I cannot say what the basic reason of our defeat was,” KRL coach Tariq Lutfi said. “Our goalkeeper Saqib Hanif was unmoved on both the occasions we conceded goals. We dominated the second half but failed to level the match,” said Lutfi.

Lutfi was confident for the match against Habib Bank in their last match on Monday (today).

“We can beat Habib Bank and qualify for the quarter-finals,” said Lutfi, whose team qualified for the final round of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President’s Cup in Philippines a few days ago.

PACA co-owner Mohammad Essa said his team proved that they could beat even the best of the sides. “Don’t call it an upset. We are the champions of the PFF League B Division, while KRL are the winners of the Premier League,” said Essa, a former Pakistan captain.

“We disturbed KRL with positive planning and I hope that the team will continue to do well in the coming days,” Essa said.

KRL will meet Habib Bank on Monday. The winners of the game will be the second quarter-finalists from the group.

PACA will face Ashraf Sugar Mills, who have just one point, in the other match today.

WAPDA emerged as Group B winners when they defeated Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) 3-1. Mohammad Rasool provided lead to KESC in the tenth minute before WAPDA brought the parity on the stroke of half time through an own goal when KESC’s Aurangzeb hit the ball in his own net while trying to clear it.

But WAPDA hit two more goals in the second half through Jadeed Khan and Manzoor Ahmed to seal a comfortable win.

KESC will face national Under-18 team in the quarter-final, while WAPDA will meet in the last eight stage with the winners of the Army-PIA match scheduled on Sunday night.

In an inconsequential tie of Group B Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) notched up a consolation win when they routed Police 4-0. Amanullah hit two while Imran and Jehanzeb netted one goal apiece.

by Alam Zeb Safi [The News]