Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: After passing through a lean patch, star striker Kaleemullah finally showed his form when he hit a fine hat-trick to guide holders Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) to a huge 6-1 victory over Pak Afghan Clearing Agency (PACA) in their match of the Pakistan Premier Football League at the Railways Stadium in Lahore on Thursday.
Zia-us-Salam, Mohammad Aadil and Saadullah were the others to score goals.
The victory, their seventh from 14 outings, pushed KRL to 26 points, while the loss compounded PACA’s miseries as they are reeling at 20 points after 21 appearances. Zia put KRL ahead in the 20th minute. Winger Aadil doubled their lead in the 33rd minute. Kaleem, who had not been in his best form for the last one-and-a-half month, added to the miseries of PACA in the 44th minute. At half time KRL had 3-0 edge.
Kaleem scored his second in the 65th minute through a nice field effort to place KRL in a very comfortable position.
PACA pulled one back through Saifullah in the 71st minute. But in the 85th minute Kaleem landed his third and fifth for KRL. Saadullah struck in the injury time to complete the rout.
“We got goals from the start and that went in our favour,” KRL coach Tariq Lutfi told ‘The News’.
He said that he was happy to see his key players in good touch. “Aadil looked in form today as he scored one goal and assisted in two. Kaleem scored all his goals exquisitely and the way Zia landed one from the top of the area was a classy,” said Lutfi, a former Pakistan coach.
“We were without defender Shahid Gujjar due to double booking and played Salman in his place. Our skipper Samar Ishaq is yet to return due to injury, but we are fortunate that our defender Kamran is in good shape,” said Lutfi.
He said that his team would need to perform outstandingly in the time to come in order to retain the title.
At the Battle X Ground, Habib Bank Limited (HBL) pulled off a much needed victory when they edged strong Pakistan Air Force (PAF) 1-0 thanks to a golden strike from Saeed Ahmed in the 33rd minute.
HBL manager Yousuf Khan was extremely happy with the crucial win. “I am really happy today as we won a vital game. The team did a fine job as PAF are a tough side. We could have struck our second goal but Atif’s pile-driver from 30 yards in the injury time crashed the pole,” Yousuf said.
However, he lamented that they would be missing their three defenders in the next match. “Waqas, Naveed and Zubair will not be available for our next match due to double booking. It’s a huge loss for us,” Yousuf said.
The victory inflated HBL’s tally to 24 points after 22 outings. PAF coach Shehzad Anwar said it was not their day. “We dominated the game and inflicted some fine attacks but luck did not favour us,” said Shehzad, who served as Pakistan’s head coach during the SAFF Cup in Nepal in September.
He said that HBL got a fine goal and their keeper Ihsanullah was outstanding under the cage. The loss left PAF at 36 points from 19 appearances.
Baloch FC are scheduled to face Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) on Friday (today) but the former will get a walk-over as the bankers have decided not to play their remaining matches of the league.