K-Electric make cut for AFC Cup play-offs

K-Electric make cut for AFC Cup play-offs

by Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

KARACHI: K-Electric qualified for the 2016 AFC Cup play-offs when Mongolia’s Khoromkhon FC held hosts Druk United of Bhutan to a goalless draw in the Group A qualifiers at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimphu, Bhutan, on Saturday.

Druk United needed a win to surpass K-Electric and to move into the play-offs but their hopes were shattered by strong defensive display from Khoromkhon FC in a tensely-fought battle.

The outcome elated K-Electric’s skipper Mohammad Essa.

“It’s an occasion of immense happiness for both Pakistan and K-Electric,” the jubilant Essa told ‘The News’ here on Saturday.

“The players and K-Electric’s management deserve praise as they have worked hard during the last five years. First we became the Premier League champions and today we have qualified for the AFC Cup play-offs, while featuring at international level for the first time. It’s a massive achievement,” said Essa, also a former Pakistan captain.

K-Electric ended as group winners with four points. They held Druk United to a 3-3 draw in their first outing on August 11 before beating Mongolia’s Khoromkhon FC 1-0 in their vital meeting on August 13.

“We now have to fight in the tough phase next year, we will need new players and a friendly tour. K-Electric’s top officials including CEO Tayyab Tareen, business chief Usama Qureshi and sports chief Zabe Khan have promised their all out support. I hope they will keep contributing for the development of K-Electric’s football,” Essa added.

“The result will also benefit the players and future of Pakistan football. If planning could be done at the national level as K-Electric’s management has done, it will help grow the country’s football,” Essa conceded.

To a query, Essa said K-Electric had a solid chance to beat Druk United in the first match but goalkeeping blunders hurt them as the game ended in a stalemate.

K-Electric’s sports chief Zabe Khan gave credit to the whole team.

“The credit goes to all the players. England-based Irfan Khan played like a rock in the deep and also Habib-ur-Rehman. All the players worked extremely hard,” said Zabe, who was accompanying the side as manager.

“We beat a strong Mongolian side in our second game. Mongolians were very tough defensively and today they proved as they did not give much room to Druk United’s strikers to sneak through,” Zabe said.

“Now, for the tough round next year we would try to strengthen our team,” he added.

K-Electric returned here from Bhutan on Saturday. Head coach Majid Shafiq left directly for England because he had got Pakistani visa for a single entry.

England-based players Irfan Khan, Shani Abbasi and Nigerians Oludeyi Abayomi Sunday and Wilson Segun would stay in the port city for a couple of days.

On Sunday (today), K-Electric team would meet the top management of the department.

Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) secretary Col Ahmad Yar Lodhi said it was a precedent of the growth of football in the country.

“Although there are weaknesses in our football. But it’s a positive sign that our club advanced to the play-offs which shows the growth of the game in Pakistan,” Lodhi said.

Meanwhile from Group B, Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club of Bangladesh made it to the play-offs by emerging as group winners when they picked up the point they needed with a 1-1 draw with hosts Alga FC of Kyrgyzstan at the Dolen Omurzakov Stadium in Bishkek.