AFC Cup qualifiers: KE electric in 1-0 win [Express Tribune]

AFC Cup qualifiers: KE electric in 1-0 win [Express Tribune]

By Natasha Raheel,
KARACHI: Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) champions K-Electric claimed a crucial 1-0 win at the 2016 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup qualifiers against Mongolian side Khoromkhon FC at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu on Thursday to significantly improving their chances of going through to the next round.

The Karachi-based outfit had drawn their first match against Bhutan’s Druk United in a six-goal thriller on August 11, which meant that they needed to win this match in order to have any realistic chance of qualification.

KE started off well but the Mongolians kept their shape to ensure that both teams went in goalless at the break.

The second half, however, was a different story. KE’s immensely popular coach, despite having spent just three weeks with the club, Majid Shafiq, wanted to introduce an element of surprise.

“We were dominant in the first half,” the Oxford-graduate English FA-certified coach told The Express Tribune. “At half-time I told the team that we needed that element of surprise so we shifted to a 4-4-2 and moved Essa [Khan] from midfield into attack.”

The move immediately paid dividend. “We could’ve scored four goals in the second half, but I’m very happy with my players and the KE management,” said Shafiq. “They wanted a win, I wanted the win and they worked hard [for it].”

It was the introduction of Nigerian striker Abayomi Sunday Oludeyi in the 43rd minute that proved to be the difference as the 22-year-old scored the priceless winner in the 74th minute to ensure three points for KE and give them their maiden win in the AFC Cup.

Shafiq believes that his decision to keep Sunday on the bench was worth the risk. “He was a late-comer and didn’t train with us in Karachi, but is an intelligent player,” said the 42-year-old. “I kept him on the bench so that he can observe the game and it worked.”

Meanwhile, Sunday said that the motivation came from his love for the club and his Pakistani teammates.

“I wasn’t feeling well because Bhutan is very far away from Pakistan and from my home too,” said Sunday. “When I was getting on the plane to get here, I just knew I had to give my best. I was on the bench but I did learn from watching the first game. It also gave me time to adapt because the weather is too cold for me and the altitude is a problem as well. But I’m just glad that I managed to score.”

Meanwhile, former national striker and KE skipper Essa was left beaming with pride. “We dominated both the matches,” said the Chaman-based striker. “We made mistakes in the first match but we proved our critics wrong in the second. We are the best team in Pakistan and we deserve our spot in the AFC Cup. This win is special for us all, it’s an August 14 gift in a way.”

KE club president Usama Qureshi believes that KE’s win will boost Pakistani football as the management have made an effort to provide the best facilities for the players.

Wait for other results begin

KE manager Zabe Khan said that while more goals in the second match would have been better, his team performed well.

KE will be watching the third and final match of the group between Druk United FC and Khoromkhon FC on August 15 very closely, with Druk United needing to better KE’s 1-0 result to go through at the expense of the Pakistan champions.

“We won, and the job done is 90 per cent done,” said Zabe. “Now we’ll hope that we get through to the next round. Getting the three points here was important for us. “

KE lead the group with four points after playing their two matches, with Druk on three points and Khoromkhon already out of the reckoning after losing.