THIMPU: Habib-ur-Rehman proved an inspired substitution, scoring late on to secure an entertaining 3-3 draw for K-Electric against Druk United in their opening Group ‘A’ match of the playoff qualifiers for next year’s AFC Cup at the Changlimithang National Stadium on Tuesday.
Having let slip a 2-1 lead at the interval to go 3-2 down, Habib — who replaced Nigerian star Oludeyi Abayomi Sunday in the 73rd minute — got the equaliser four minutes from time when he tapped home from inside the box to earn K-Electric a valuable point on their continental debut.
K-Electric, the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) champions looking to advance to the playoffs of Asia’s second-tier club competition, looked set for an impressive debut win when Mohammad Rasool’s brace put them ahead at the break.
Rasool opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a delightful chip after latching onto a long ball but Tshering Dorji’s sublime free-kick got the hosts Druk United back on level terms in the 21st.
K-Electric regained their lead on the stroke of half-time when Rasool headed home from Mohammad Riaz’s free-kick.
With the rain lashing down, the Bhutanese champions regained a foothold in the match with Tshering Wangdi side-footing home from Diwash Subba’s cross from the left two minutes before the hour mark.
Dorji then got his second in the 75th, capitalising of a quickly-taken free-kick which had the K-Electric defence in disarray.
But with the hosts closing in on victory, Habib swept in the equaliser after the ball was intelligently cut the ball across the Druk United penalty area from the left and into his path.
“I’m pleased we got a deserved point on our debut on the continent,” K-Electric coach Majid Shafiq said after the match. “The rain played a major part in their [Druk United’s] third goal but I’m happy that the players gave their all to comeback and earn a draw.
“The altitude at the venue did play a part but we coped with it pretty well. It’s a step forward for the team and we should now take what we’ve learnt here into the second game.”
In their second and final Group ‘A’ game, K-Electric play Mongolian champions Khoromkhon on Thursday. The action concludes with the final group game on Saturday between Druk United and Khoromkhon.
The group winners advance to the playoffs for next year’s AFC Cup and K-Electric will need at least a victory when they play the Mongolian outfit to keep themselves in contention.
“We need to win and see how the last game goes,” K-Electric’s Sports Head Zabe Khan said, looking ahead to the match against Khoromkhon.
Khoromkhon coach S Purevsukn was at the venue to watch the opening game of the group and according to him, another attacking game can be expected on Thursday.
“We are here to win, so we’ll attack the moment we get the opportunity,” Purevsukn told reporters. “We’ve seen how both teams play and will plan accordingly.”