Umaid Wasim – DAWN
KARACHI: Late goals were the order of the day in the National Challenge Cup here on Friday as Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Pakistan Police grabbed identical 2-1 victories.
PIA defender Haji Mohammad netted a controversial penalty with the last kick of the game at the KPT Stadium as his side scraped past battling Pakistan Navy to reach the quarter-finals from Group ‘A’.
At the KMC Stadium, Police prevailed against Habib Bank Limited (HBL) courtesy Pervaiz’s injury-time strike to throw Group ‘D’ wide open.
PIA’s victory left Navy relying on the result of the final Group ‘A’ game between the airmen and Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) on Sunday.
Navy, who drew 1-1 with KRL on Wednesday, need PIA to win against KRL to reach the last eight but their assistant coach Nasir Hussain doesn’t hold much hope.
“We’re almost out as I don’t believe PIA can win against KRL,” he told Dawn. “At the most it will be a draw.”
HBL, meanwhile, need victory against Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in their final Group ‘D’ game on Sunday to have any chance of going through to the quarter-finals.
With Police having lost 2-1 to PAF in their opening game on Wednesday, HBL need to win by two clear goals against PAF to advance from the group stage in the country’s premier Cup tournament.
PIA took the lead against Navy just before the hour mark when ace striker Shakir Lashari skipped past two defenders before firing in low past the goalkeeper.
Navy hit back in the 76th when they were awarded a penalty which was coolly dispatched by Asif Bux.
However, Shahid Munir pulled down Shakir, who went down quite easily, inside the box in first minute of added time and Haji Mohammad stepped up and made no mistake in firing it to the right of Navy goalkeeper Shehroz.
“It was never a penalty,” Nasir said. “This is the cruelest way to lose a game after all the hard work we did to get back into the game.”
“Hidayatullah [the referee who will be inspected by AFC during the course of the tournament] made a wrong decision and it cost us the game.”
PIA coach Shamim Khan was pleased with the result however he stressed that his side need to do more in order to do well through the course of the tournament.
“Our play wasn’t that good,” he told Dawn. “We need to step up our game in the coming games.”
HBL will certainly need to step up their game against PAF after they conceded a goal to Pervaiz in the second minute of added time.
Saeed Ahmed, signed from KRL earlier this month, had equalised for HBL in the 85th minute after Ghulam Nabi had broken the deadlock in the 39th.