Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: Pakistan Premier League champions Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) were on Wednesday bracketed with two-time champions Dordoi Bishkek of Kyrgyzstan in Group B as the draws for the final stage of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President’s Cup were unveiled in Kuala Lumpur.
The finals will be held from September 23 to 29 at a venue, which is yet to be decided.
Hilal Al-Quds of Palestine are the other outfit in the group.
Group A carries Balkan FC of Turkmenistan, Erchim FC of Mongolia and the 2005 semi-finalists Three Star Club of Nepal.
KRL will play their opening match against Dordoi Bishkek, formerly known as Dordoi Dynamo, on September 23, followed by their last match against Hilal Al-Quds on September 27.
One leading team from each group will qualify for the final which will be held on September 29.
“Our first game against Dordoi is very important,” KRL coach Tariq Lutfi told ‘The News’ here on Wednesday. “We have already held Dordoi in the group stage and they definitely will have some fear while playing against us. If KRL played positive football on that particular day then I am confident that the result will not be a bad one,” said Tariq, also a former Pakistan coach.
Dordoi lifted the titles in 2006 and 2007 and ended as runners-up four times. Dordoi have also to their credit eight crowns of the Kyrgyzstan top league.
“Dordoi are a mature side. Their players have good height and strong finishing power,” said Tariq.
KRL, the three-time Premier League winners, had qualified for the final stage after ending as Group B runners-up in the league stage conducted at the Cebu City in the Philippines from May 8-12 this year.
KRL had held Dordoi to a 1-1 draw, defeated Global FC of Philippines 2-0 and whipped Yeedzin FC of Bhutan 8-0 in their last group game.
KRL coach fears his side may face problems in preparation. “You know our 11 players will be with the national team and the Premier League also starts from September 1. It is yet to be seen what the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) will decide about our initial matches in the Premier League, keeping in view our AFC President’s Cup commitment,” he pointed out.
He added that around 15 of his players were already under training in Islamabad in Ramadan. This is the third time that KRL are featuring in the AFC third-tier club competitions. They have advanced to the final stage for the second time. In 2012 final stage KRL lost both their matches against Taiwan Power Company of Chinese Taipei and Markaz Shabab Al Am’ari of Palestine who were then beaten by Istiqlol FC of Tajikistan in the final.
In 2010 edition KRL exited pre-maturely, beaten by Tajikistan’s Vakhsh Qurghonteppa 1-0 and Renowned Sports Club of Sri Lanka 2-1 in the first round.
Schedule: September 23: KRL v Dordoi Bishkek, Balkan FC v Three Star Club, September 25: Hilal Al-Quds v Dordoi, Erchim FC v Three Star Club, September 27: KRL v Hilal Al-Quds, Balkan FC v Erchim FC, September 29: Final